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'Stroppy little teenager' rebuke amounted to age-related harassment

Posted by TonyBrownEmploymentSolicitor on August 19, 2013

In the next case, an employment tribunal ruled that an 18 years’ old employee was the victim of age-related harassment because her line manager referred to her as “a kid” and a “stroppy little teenager”.

The Claimant was 18 years old. She was initially employed by the employer as a Saturday employee before being taken on full time as a store supervisor. The Claimant’s line manager was intolerant of the Claimant’s shortcomings and referred to her as “a kid”, “stroppy kid” and “stroppy little teenager”. As a result of her shortcomings, the Clamant was eventually dismissed. She had only 10 months’ employment so could not make a claim for unfair dismissal. However, she did bring an age discrimination claim complaining that the language used by her manager was age-related harassment.

The employment tribunal held that the language used by the manager constituted harassment on grounds of age. Although use of the word “teenager” was factually accurate, as the Claimant was 18 years old, the word had multiple usages. In this case, the word “teenager” was used in a derogatory way by the manger rather than an explanatory way. The same was true in relation to use of the word “kid”.

The Claimant was awarded £2000 compensation.

Comment.

In cases like this, the tribunal has to strike the right balance between not fostering a culture of hypersensitivity on the one hand and not appearing to gloss over the use of unacceptable language on the other. The tribunal in this case decided that, although they were not used with the purpose of causing offence to the Claimant, the effect of the words in a managerial setting was to belittle the Claimant and to create a hostile or offensive environment for her.

The compensation award might be regarded as high. However, the tribunal listed the factors leading to an award at that level as including the fact that the words were used, not at a single event, but a series of events. The words were used, not in a casual conversation but relating to performance of the Claimant’s work, and they were used by a line manager in performance of her line management duties

If you would like advice about how the issues in this note apply to your situation, please contact Tony Brown on 01225 740097 or by e mail to tony@bathemploymentlaw.co.uk

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