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Careless talk creates Age Discrimination claim

Posted On: [09/09/2021]

In Crompton v Eden Private Staff Ltd [2020] Mrs.  Crompton, who worked for Eden Private Staff, found herself a victim of age discrimination when her manager, Ms. Burridge, subjected her to comments suggesting that she suffered from Alzheimer's disease and referred to her defective memory.   If Mrs. Crompton forgot something Ms. Burridge would say "is it Alzheimer's again?"  The Employment Tribunal found this to be harassment and direct age discrimination because those remarks about Alzheimer's would not have been made to a younger employee.

Mrs Crompton had performance issues. After an interview with two managers who pointed out to Mrs. Crompton that there were errors in outgoing letters she was asked to check her work more carefully.  She informed the managers that Ms. Burridge's "anger and impatience" towards her made her uncomfortable and made it difficult for her to ask for help.  Mrs. Crompton's performance continued to be of concern.  She was signed off sick due to stress and was dismissed. Following her dismissal, Mrs. Crompton submitted a grievance letter in which she challenged the reason for her dismissal contesting the suggestion that performance issues were the reason and alleged she had been the victim of age discrimination. 

Eden Private Staff appointed an HR consultant to investigate the allegation.  During the course of which it came to light that Ms. Burridge had suggested on several occasions that Mrs. Crompton had Alzheimer's disease.  When challenged by the HR consultant Ms. Burridge commented "there was "a bit of a laugh and joke" among colleagues and that another colleague was referred to as "dementia Debbie", adding that "everyone calls her this". 

The tribunal judge, Judge Matthews, stated that it was doubtful that Ms. Burridge had deliberately intended to violate Mrs. Crompton's dignity as Ms. Burridge almost certainly saw her remarks as "no more than office banter".  Nevertheless, Ms. Burridge's views on her own comments did not detract from the effect they had on Mrs. Crompton.