Calling a worker a grandmother could be age discrimination – even if they are one, judge rules

Calling an employee a grandmother can amount to age discrimination, even in cases where they are one, a tribunal has ruled.

Anne Dopson, 62, launched a legal challenge after she was referred to as a grandparent in a motoring review for a Renault Kadjar in May 2017.

The former sales director took offence at a piece written by Steve Moody, a publisher at Stag Publications, in an edition of Fleet World magazine, which critiqued the seven-seater vehicle.

Mrs Dopson, who earned £50,000-a-year in her role, complained the review was "a dig at my age" and had "raised a laugh in the office" despite the fact she has a grandson, the tribunal was told.

The grandmother of three later resigned from her job and claimed age discrimination against her employers.

However, while a judge ruled the review was "detrimental" and "less favourable" because it pointed out her age, the claim failed because it was lodged out of time.

'Stylish and functional': the Renault Kadjar review proved contentious

Credit: RENAULT

The review, which was read out at an employment hearing, stated: "So the Kadjar has gone back after a year of service on our fleet.

"In that time myself, Luke Wikner, Nat Middleton, Alex Grant and Anne Dopson have all spent a fair amount of time behind the wheel, which basically means it has had three spells as family transport, one as a ride for the bachelor about town and the other as comfy wheels for a grandmother.

"You can choose who applies to which category. But the point is this: it has performed very well in all roles, being stylish on the outside and functionally superb on the inside. Very impressed indeed, as we all were with the Kadjar."

Mrs Dopson emailed her managing director, which was later filed as a grievance, to say being referred to as a grandmother "doesn’t exactly sit well at the moment".

Her note to Jerry Ramsdale read: "I have no problem with being a grandma and I love and have been called Grandma since 1990 by marriage, and for the last seven years since Tom was born and delight in taking every opportunity to show his pictures to all and sundry, but I don’t agree with what could be perceived as a dig at my age."

The formal grievance was investigated and rejected, which Mrs Dopson later appealed, the tribunal heard.

The tribunal heard Mrs Dopson (who has now moved to Ireland) started a sickness absence in May 2017 from which she never returned.

Luke Wikner, the head of production at the company, then investigated her appeal which was again rejected in what Mrs Dopson said was "flawed", as she felt he was "not impartial", the panel were told.

As a result, she resigned in October 2017 and filed a claim for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and age discrimination to the employment tribunal.

Mrs Dopson’s age discrimination claim failed as it was deemed an "isolated incident" by the tribunal because it was published over three months before she made her claim and outside the "primary time limit". 

Employment judge Oliver Hyams concluded: "Turning to the claim about the reference to Mrs Dopson having used the review vehicle as "comfy wheels for a grandmother", we accepted that the article was detrimental treatment and that it was less favourable treatment of Mrs Dopson because of her age, i.e. direct discrimination."

However, Judge Hyams added: "That article was not relied on as part of an accumulation of conduct which, taken together, amounted to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence. The only thing done by Stag Publications that was in any way wrongful was the way in which Mr Wikner dealt with Mrs Dopson’s grievance."

Mrs Dopson’s claims of unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and age discrimination failed and were dismissed. 

The tribunal concluded that whether she is entitled any unpaid holiday or commission payments will be determined at a later date.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *