A woman verbally abused by her employer when he shouted at her that ‘she must be in her menopause’, has won her case for unfair dismissal.
She was unfairly sacked after she raised complaints about COVID-19 safety, an employment tribunal found.
The panel found Leigh Best, aged 54, was harassed due to her age and sex and was dismissed as a sales assistant for pet food retailer Embark on Raw, based near Billericay, Essex, after raising concerns, according to the BBC.
The tribunal at East London Hearing Centre heard Mrs Best was employed by the company from 29 January 2020 until 11 May that year. She was on a ‘zero hours’ contract although it is not in dispute that she regularly worked ’full time’ hours every week.
The firm’s husband and wife co-directors, David and Andrea Fletcher, said she was dismissed due to her “rude and confrontational communication with co-workers and managers”.
But the tribunal panel found the principal reason was her whistleblowing during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that her dismissal took place with “little or no respect for a fair process or the rules of natural justice”.
It heard the company made efforts to be COVID-safe, but Mrs Best claimed these procedures were not implemented and enforced and that co-workers were not wearing face coverings and failing to follow social distancing rules.
The panel heard Mr Fletcher made inappropriate and derogatory comments to Mrs Best about her age and sex, but found her claim that she said her husband would start looking “at other younger women now” was not proven.
The tribunal was satisfied that Mr Fletcher had shouted that “she must be in her menopause” on 20 March 2020 during an argument about a mix-up with orders.
The panel found Mrs Best was less favourably treated after raising safety concerns and agreed that her employer “clearly had an issue” from that point, and that she also “added to their frustrations” by raising the issue of Mr Fletcher’s comments on her age and sex.
Any compensation Mrs Best may be entitled to will be determined at a separate hearing on 31 January 2022.
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