The case of Ms Carolina Gomes v. Henworth Limited t/a Winkworth Estate Agents & anor. serves as a useful reminder to be careful when selecting your choice of words when talking to employees.
Ms Gomes started working for an estate agency business in 2009. In February 2015 she was transferred to another franchise as an administrative assistant. In 2016 there were concerns with her work and meetings were held during which she was told to be more careful. She was aged 59 at the time. Ms Gomes was told that she would be “better suited to a traditional estate agency”. Ms Gomes took this to mean that she was being told that she was too old to work in that office. She felt that she was being told to leave the business. She had intended to stay with the company until she retired at 65.
Ms Gomes was not satisfied with the outcome of a grievance that she raised. She appealed and also tendered her resignation and brought an age discrimination claim at Watford Employment Tribunal. The Tribunal held the phrase “better suited to a traditional estate agency” was a reference to her age and it was unlikely that such a comment would have been made to a younger employee. Her claim for age discrimination was upheld.
This case serves as a reminder to employers of the risks of using words and phrases that could be taken to be a reference to someone’s age.
You can find the full judgement here.