'Don't call me grandma, even if I am one. It could be discrimination'

29 July 2021, 08:47

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

An employment tribunal has rules calling an employee a grandmother can amount to age discrimination, even if they are one.

Employment law consultant Gillian Howard explained the details of the case and the law to LBC's Nick Ferrari.

Nick asked Gillian why it was discrimination to call someone a "grandparent if they are one."

But, the employment law expert explained that was not what the case pivoted on.

Anne Dopson sued her employer, a publishing company after another member of staff wrote a car review in which she was described as “a grandmother”. She was 62 at the time.

Executive Anne Dopson sued her employer after a colleague wrote a car review which described the then-62-year-old as 'a grandmother'.

The former sales director, who has three grandchildren, said she was upset when the glowing review of a Renault Kadjar said it had performed admirably as 'comfy wheels' for a grandparent.

Dopson complained that even though she had three grandchildren at that point, the reference had been “a dig at my age” and “raised a laugh in the office”. She resigned from the £50,000-a-year role and brought legal proceedings against the publisher.

A judge has now ruled the review amounted to “detrimental” and “less favourable” treatment of Dopson because it drew attention to her age.

Mrs Dopson emailed her boss, which was later filed as a grievance, to say being referred to as a grandmother "doesn't exactly sit well at the moment".

Her note to Jerry Ramsdale read: "I have no problem with being a grandma and I love and have been called Grandma since 1990 by marriage, and for the last seven years since Tom was born and delight in taking every opportunity to show his pictures to all and sundry, but I don't agree with what could be perceived as a dig at my age."

The formal grievance was investigated and rejected, which Mrs Dopson later appealed, the tribunal heard.

Employment judge Oliver Hyams said: "Turning to the claim about the reference to Mrs Dopson having used the review vehicle as "comfy wheels for a grandmother", we accepted that the article was detrimental treatment and that it was less favourable treatment of Mrs Dopson because of her age, i.e. direct discrimination."

However, Judge Hyams added: "That article was not relied on as part of an accumulation of conduct which, taken together, amounted to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence.

"The only thing done by Stag Publications that was in any way wrongful was the way in which Mr Wikner dealt with Mrs Dopson's grievance."

Mrs Dopson's claims of unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal and age discrimination failed and were dismissed.

The tribunal concluded that whether she is entitled any unpaid holiday or commission payments will be determined at a later date.