Sales rep dubbed ‘Gramps’ awarded £63,000 in age discrimination case

Employment Law Partner Paul Maynard

An employment tribunal has awarded a man over £63,000, after finding he was unfairly dismissed and a victim of age discrimination.

Alan Dove, 61, had worked as a sales rep for a firm of luxury jewellers for 25 years, and was the oldest staff member by over 10 years at the time of his dismissal, then aged 60.

A tribunal heard that Gareth Thomas – the company’s head of sales, who is in his thirties – had referred to Mr Dove as ‘Gramps’ for several years before the dismissal. Mr Dove said he found the nickname ‘disrespectful and hurtful’, while Mr Thomas insisted it was ‘an affectionate term of address’.

Mr Thomas had stated in an email that a client had complained that Mr Dove was ‘too long in the tooth and was a traditional sales rep which doesn’t work for their business any more’; yet the tribunal heard that the client categorically denies doing so. Mr Dove told the tribunal he felt his clients had been ‘engineered away from him’.

John Ball, the firm’s director, raised the client’s supposed concerns with Mr Dove, who replied, ‘In all the 40 years of my work I have never been challenged like this. I am trying to integrate into your way of working’. Mr Ball then terminated Mr Dove’s employment by letter on 1 April 2015.

The tribunal noted: “He was dismissed, in essence, because some of the clients that he was dealing with had been transferred to Mr Thomas by Mr Ball. This left, in Mr Ball’s view, insufficient income to be generated by the claimant. As a matter of fact, of course, Mr Thomas is considerably younger than the claimant.”

The tribunal deemed the phrases ‘long in the tooth’, ‘old fashioned’ and ‘traditional’ to be negative references to Mr Dove’s age.

It held: “The use of these phrases indicate views emanating from the customers which are negative views almost certainly based on the claimant’s age. What is more, the respondent accepts that the claimant was referred to by an age specific nickname of ‘Gramps’ by one of its own employees.”

Mr Dove was awarded £63,390.95, which included £9,000 for injury to feelings as well as loss of earnings.

Expert legal advice on workplace discrimination

Read our Discrimination in the Workplace Briefing Note for an overview of the areas of working life and types of discrimination covered by the law, the main defences to a discrimination claim, plus practical steps your business can take to avoid breaching discrimination law.

For an overview of the circumstances in which an employer can be vicariously liable for discrimination and how to manage the risk of such an occurrence, read our Vicarious Liability and Discrimination Briefing Note.

While our Briefing Notes offer general guidance, they do not constitute legal advice. For expert advice on discrimination in the workplace please contact Employment Law Partner Paul Maynard:

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