Age discrimination claim won by plumber called ‘Half-dead Dave’

Age discrimination claim won by plumber called ‘Half-dead Dave’ 

After being nicknamed ‘half-dead Dave’ by his colleagues, a plumbing and heating engineer has won his claim for unfair dismissal and been awarded compensation of almost £25,000. This was for age-related discrimination and unfair dismissal.

Mr Robson worked at Clarke’s Mechanical which is based in Cowes on the Isle of Wight. He was made redundant in 2020 and at the time he was 69 years of age. He was the oldest skilled worker in the business.

Clarke’s Mechanical had suffered a downturn in business and had been advised that a major contract they held would not be renewed. Mr Robson was among the staff that were working on a job which was soon to end.

On 24th January 2020, Mr Robson was informed that he would be made redundant with eight weeks’ notice. Mr Robson had received no warning prior to this meeting or had any idea of his risk of redundancy. There had been no consultation with him.

The meeting in January lasted just 13 minutes with Mr Robson admitting to the tribunal that he had not been given any information about redundancy or appeals procedures.

Soon after this meeting other staff members were invited to apply for voluntary redundancy.

Mr Robson appealed against the decision. He asked whether his age had been a deciding factor in the decision. At that time Mr Robson was a highly qualified Gas safe registered plumber and gas fitter. He had worked in the field since 1965.

Soon after he had been informed about his redundancy, Mr Robson saw on Clarke’s Mechanical website, an advertisement requiring a qualified plumber/pipefitter on the Isle of Wight. The position advertised a short-term employment contract and sub-contract positions for an immediate start.

Although Mr Robson was more than qualified for this role, he was not offered the position at the redundancy meeting.

On 17th February Mr Robson received the scoring criteria which were applied in selecting him for redundancy. It was sent by company director Mr Clarke.

Mr Robson told the tribunal that he felt the scores were fabricated because in earlier meetings no mention of a scoring system had been carried out.

The scoring showed that Mr Robson’s performance had been the lowest, apart from a junior trainee. Mr Robson disputed at the tribunal that his score for domestic experience equated to that of trainee plumbers.

The tribunal ruled that the scoring process was discriminatory and that it had indeed been based on Mr Robson’s age.

There could be no other reason for his redundancy. Mr Robson was skilled and versatile and had no history of performance or conduct issues. The scoring was fictitious.

The tribunal ruled that in the absence of evidence to justify his dismissal, the context pointed directly to Mr Robson being selected because of his age. He was the oldest staff member there.

Clarke’s Mechanical denied that age had been a deciding factor. The tribunal noted that most employers would ‘be alive to the age profile of their staff.’

The company may have been concerned about future performance concerns and health, but they had given Mr Robson’s age no thought at all when they made him redundant.

Mr Robson told the tribunal that on 27th February 2020 he had received a letter confirming that he would be paid for his last three weeks of work during his notice period and was not required to work any longer. His last day at the company was 28th February 2020.

The tribunal heard that Mr Robson was called ‘half-dead Dave’ or ‘half-dead’ by his colleagues, including his supervisor Mr Pitman.

One such incident had taken place when Mr Pitman told a trainee, Mr Fox, to hand something to ‘half-dead Dave.’ Mr Fox, the trainee said that he did not know who that was and was told by Mr Pitman that it was the nickname they had given to Mr Robson.

Mr Fox at the hearing apologised and said that he had felt uncomfortable using the name.

When queried about the nickname Mr Pitman stated that the use of the name was simply just ‘banter’, and no malice was involved.

The tribunal felt that using the nickname was age-related and derogatory.

Mr Robson stated that he did see the nickname as a reflection of his age, and he felt vulnerable because of this. He felt that if he made a fuss, his job could be at risk.

The tribunal asked Mr Robson if he has requested his colleagues stop using the nickname to which Mr Robson replied that it was just ‘not worth the row and the argument which would follow.’

Mr Robson said that if a person challenged the management they seemed to get victimised. The only way he could deal with the situation was by letting it go. Mr Robson thought that because he only had a few years left to work before retiring, he would be able to put up with the name-calling.

Mr Robson did not make any formal complaint about the nickname until the end of his employment.

The tribunal ordered Clarke’s Mechanical to pay Mr Robson £24,926.14. This included amounts for unfair dismissal, injury to feelings, discrimination, and interest.


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