The majority of people will find it daunting stepping into full time employment for the first time, particularly if it is your first job, whether young or old, and lack experience. We are all keen to impress and do our best, but sometimes an employer may take advantage of a young and inexperienced employee or even an older employee.
A 20-year-old factory worker was recently awarded £8,000.00 in compensation at an Employment Tribunal for “inherent” discrimination, meaning that it was obvious to the Tribunal why this young man was being treated less favourably, as this was on account of his age.
He had worked for his employer for 3 years and was tasked with keeping the store clear and in order. A confrontation ensued after he questioned whether other employees should also be helping with the work. His employer lost his temper, struck him, before pushing him and told him to leave. He left the premises, clocking out and writing that that he did not feel safe and as a result went to see his GP who signed him off sick for stress related reasons. The worker did not return to work.
His employer then sent a text message to the employee apologising for their actions, stating he could return to work but would need to change his attitude, and confirming that if he did not show up that he would assume he had moved on.
Aside from physically assaulting his employee, he also sent a letter to the worker calling him a “jumped up, know it all, spoilt child”, ending the letter with an assumption that he is to resign and if he did not he would be dismissed for gross misconduct.
The action of the employer was totally unacceptable, committing a fundamental breach of the contract going to the heart of the relationship. The employer breached their own procedures, together with a breach of the ACAS Code of Practice.
Looking at the actions of the employer, there were two causes of action which the employee pursued against their employer.
Discrimination - A young and inexperienced worker is just as likely to be “targeted” as an older worker as they tend not to “answer back” and simply get on with the job and demands made of them. Age discrimination is not just deemed to be associated with the older worker, and regardless of whether you are young or old, it is not acceptable or lawful to discriminate against someone based on their age. A claim can be pursued in the Tribunal whether you still work for the employer or not and compensation can be awarded for injury to feelings. In this case the employer was guilty of direct age discrimination and harassment.
Unfair Dismissal – The employer simply stated that if he did not resign, he would be dismissed for gross misconduct. This is totally unreasonable, and an employer has a duty to follow the correct ACAS Code of Practice when dismissing an employee. A claim can be pursued in the Tribunal for unfair dismissal, and an award of compensation for losses arising out of his dismissal.
Had the employee not returned to work, he would be deemed by the employer to have resigned. An employee can pursue a claim of unfair constructive dismissal, showing a fundamental breach of trust and confidence. It must always be noted that constructive dismissal claims are difficult, and the onus is on the employee to show their employer acted unlawfully. In this instance, the employee resigned promptly to the alleged discrimination, and the fact that he did not feel safe at work. This is a fundamental breakdown of trust and confidence in the employer.
Article written by Karen Ogden