Minster Law are proud to have won the claim for a woman unfairly dismissed and discriminated against due to her age and sex after raising Covid-19 safety concerns.
Senior employment solicitor Sally Vasey supported Leigh Best, now 54, in raising a claim through the employment tribunal after she was sacked from her job at an upmarket pet food business in May 2020.
At the height of a global pandemic, when health and safety came to the forefront, she had been worried about her colleagues not wearing face masks or following social distancing guidelines.
After raising her concerns with the owner of the business, David Fletcher, on multiple occasions, she was accused was sacked for ‘rude’ and ‘confrontational’ communication with co-workers and managers – a decision she has successfully appealed.
Her claim is among many currently being run by Minster Law in relation to Covid-19.
In late October last year an employment tribunal panel was told Mrs Best was ‘extremely worried’ that neither the management nor the staff were consistently following the relevant rules and were endangering not only her health and safety but also others.
It was told she ‘expressed extreme anxiety and stress’ when she noticed one of her colleagues coughing while not wearing a mask.
Although Mr Fletcher and his wife Andrea assured its customers it was following hygiene procedures Mrs Best claimed these were not ‘implemented’ and ‘enforced.’
She took her complaints to Mrs Fletcher, noting the ‘worrying situation in the shop’, but was told she was ‘paranoid’ and asked to stop ‘digging fellow employees’.
This led to Mrs Fletcher accusing her, on April 20th, of creating ‘a divide in the business, in your words and your actions to other people’.
It was during this conversation that Mrs Best raised her concerns about comments Mr Fletcher had made towards her, regarding the menopause.
It was in March 2020 that Mrs Best had a ‘relatively’ small argument with Mr Best over an order mix up, which led to him shouting about her being menopausal from a back room.
‘(He) made inappropriate and derogatory comments about her age and remarks, relevant to her sex as a woman, relating to his perception or ‘guess’ that she might be menopausal or be experiencing stereotypical menopausal symptoms’, the tribunal was told.
He did this despite ‘even after she had made it quite clear she did not wish to participate in any such discussion’.
‘A customer had been describing a ‘hot flush’, (Mrs Best) put her hands over her ears and said, ‘ I am having none of that, I don’t even want to hear about it*I don’t want to know.’
‘Mr Fletcher continued to pursue the topic even after the customer had departed and that was unwanted conduct which had the effect of violating (her) dignity and of creating a humiliating environment for her at work.’
When Mrs Best raised her concerns to Mrs Fletcher about what her husband had said the tribunal concluded she became ‘alarmed’ as the accusation ‘would reflect badly on her own husband’ and the business.
Mrs Best was told ‘it shouldn’t happen like this. You’ve got to stop moaning and you’ve got to talk to people with respect, you’ve got to stop trying to blame people, you’re very quick to tell people when they’re doing something wrong* you’ve got to get on with everybody or we’ll have to call it a day’.
When he heard of the ‘awful conversation’ had between his wife and Mrs Best, Mr Fletcher told his wife ‘it’s time to let her go now.’
The tribunal ruled her May 20th sacking was due to her raising her Covid concerns and had been then victimised for complaining about Mr Fletcher’s behaviour towards her.
Employment Judge Bernice Elgot said Mr Fletcher invaded the claimant’s privacy, broached a highly sensitive topic for her and acted tactlessly in directly asking her, as an employee having the protected characteristic of sex as a woman, whether she was menopausal’.
‘We are satisfied that part of the reason for the company’s decision to dismiss Mrs Best is that she made a significant allegation of sexism and ageism against Mr David Fletcher.’
Of her covid concerns, the panel said she had made disclosures of ‘information’ which were also in the ‘public interest’.
‘She was intervening to protect herself, her family, her close friends and contacts, the customers, and suppliers of [the Fletcher’s] business and the wider public,’ the tribunal said.
At a damages hearing today Mrs Best was awarded £– for the trauma she has experienced as a result of the unfair dismissal and discrimination.