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Choose your words carefully

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The recent Employment Tribunal case of Ms C Gomes v Henworth Ltd t/a Winkworth Estate Agents and Mr G Gold demonstrates the importance of thinking before you speak and choosing your words carefully to avoid the risk of discrimination claims.

In this case Ms Gomes, aged 59, worked for Henworth trading as Winkworth Estate Agents. After a number of meetings in March 2016 relating to her performance and other issues, one of the Directors, Mr Gold met with Gomes and told her that she would be “better suited to a traditional estate agency”.

Gomes was signed off sick from work –related stress shortly after the comment was made. She filed a grievance. The grievance outcome was to provide her with more support and condoned the meeting with Gold as being badly handled. She appealed the grievance outcome, resigned and submitted a claim in the Employment Tribunal for age discrimination and constructive unfair dismissal.

The Employment Tribunal noted that the Oxford English Dictionary defined ‘traditional’ as meaning “long established” and such a comment would not have been made to a younger employee. Her claim succeeded.

This case is a reminder that an employer need not directly refer to someone’s age but a simple suggestion or alluding to their age could be enough to bring a claim for age discrimination. It is therefore important employers are careful and aware of the risk of potential claims.