A former manager in a communications firm has been awarded more than £71,000 compensation by an employment tribunal after being unfairly dismissed in a case involving age discrimination and grievance procedures.
Claimant Mr Jones, employed as a channel account director by Leeds-based (US-owned) Tango Networks in 2019, resigned from his role in March 2021. His salary was £60k plus commission of up to £40k, made through the number of sim cards he sold through resellers. He was unable to sell enough to earn any commission leading to criticism from his line manager Mr Hesketh, who said Jones needed “handholding” and was “underwhelming” in performance terms.
The tribunal, however, noted there was no objective evidence for Mr Hesketh’s claims about Mr Jones’s lack of sales success.
In 2020 Mr Hesketh had been looking for a new salesperson and Mr Jones recommended someone he knew: Murray Grimes.
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After meeting Mr Grimes, one of 16 candidates, Mr Hesketh commented that he looked old, despite the fact he was of similar age himself.
Mr Hesketh had a conversation with the claimant and told him “a lot of the candidates we were interviewing were a mirror image of me, white middle aged men and that it was a shame that we did not attract more diversity into the application process”.
Mr Jones told the tribunal: “Around the time of Murray’s interview, I recall Philip saying, “I don’t want a team of bald-headed 50-year-old men – I want to change the dynamics”.
After a period of leave over Christmas 2020-21 and a few weeks off work with stress, Mr Jones found himself being appraised over his performance but put in a grievance to Mr Hesketh explaining there was no need for a performance review and that the real reason for the process was his (Mr Jones’s) age and the fact that Mr Hesketh wanted to replace him with a younger person.
The grievance outcome did not support any of Mr Jones’s points and he resigned from the firm on 26 February. Mr Jones wrote: “I am shocked, appalled and saddened at the blatant manipulation and lies set out in the grievance report and believe this is only designed as a tick box exercise to make me look bad.” He alleged age discrimination and added that the grievance process had breached the Acas code.
The tribunal did not find that Mr Hesketh’s choice of words about preferred candidates – “high energy, energetic and youthful” – were “sufficient to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of confidence and trust between employer and employee”. However, it stated, the words had “chipped away at the relationship from the claimant’s perspective and in the entirety of the circumstances it was reasonable for him to feel that way”.
When it came to the grievance process, the tribunal found that it had merely “rubber stamped Mr Hesketh’s decision” and had served to “facilitate the resumption of the capability process”. It had created a hostile and humiliating environment
for the claimant, the judge ruled.
Compensation for Mr Jones amounted to £71,441.36 including £28,807.05 for unfair dismissal and £20,000 for injury to feelings.
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