Individuals in employment are protected against discrimination based on age under the Equality Act 2010. This includes harassment and victimisation and age discrimination can apply to youngsters too.
Age harassment occurs when there is unwanted conduct related to age and this conduct has the purpose, or effect, of violating the dignity of the employee, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
In the case of ?Roberts v Cash Zone (Camberley) Ltd and Another an employment tribunal found that a manager's use of the words "kid", "stroppy kid" and "stroppy teenager" amounted to harassment after a worker, Ms Roberts (aged 18), brought an age discrimination claim against her employer.
She had been recruited by the company, despite initial reservations about her lack of experience.
After joining, Ms Roberts was due to be trained by a colleague, Ms Peters, on the company's procedures, but after a few weeks the training took the form of a written document that set out tasks Roberts was required to do to when coming into work.
The tribunal accepted that that Peters was "not tolerant of, or patient with, the shortcomings of others or of the claimant".
As well as the "kid", "stroppy kid" and "stroppy teenager" comments, Peters had compared Roberts to her own teenage stepchildren. She had become "convinced" that Roberts was incapable of doing the job and prepared a file on her "incapability".
On Roberts' return from holiday, she was called into a meeting without notice and dismissed on the spot.
Subsequently, Roberts brought a number of tribunal claims including age discrimination and unfair dismissal, although the latter was rejected because of insufficient service.
The tribunal concluded that, when Peters referred to Roberts' age, it was done in a judgmental way. In doing so, the tribunal found she harassed Roberts using a stereotype that was related to the protected characteristic of age.
Harassment can take many forms. It may be intentional bullying, but can also be unintentional or subtle and insidious. What is important is the perception of the person on the receiving end of the comments or behaviour, BUT provided any offence caused is unintentional, there will be no harassment if the victim is being "hypersensitive".
When deciding claims under the Equality Act, Tribunals must take the Equality & Human Rights Commission Employment Statutory Code of Practice into account. Click here to view?their reference guide.
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