08 Mar Avoiding age and sex discrimination
You may well run out of patience occasionally with a member of your domestic staff, but a recent legal case shows that it’s wise to think about what you are going to say, before you say it, and not after.
Two sisters who worked for the same employer claimed claimed age- and sex-related discrimination after their employer subjected them to unfair criticism.
Aged 17 and 21 years old, both women resigned, each subsequently claiming they had been discriminated against on the basis of age and sex. They alleged they were criticised for mistakes, which were in fact the actions of another employee, that they were belittled in front of others through the use of comments regarding their capability to perform their tasks, and that inappropriate comments were made concerning their size and clothing. Additionally, the employer lost their temper in a small incident.
One sister alleged she was told that cleaning was a woman’s work, that she should know how to do it properly “being a girl”. The employer then took over to show how it should be done.
The tribunal upheld the claims of age and sex discrimination on the basis that the women had “not been treated with the respect they deserved as employees”; that the employer “would not have used the same behaviour with older employees”; and that negative references were specifically made about their gender.
Negative references should never be made about gender, or indeed any protected aspect, for example, religion. Discussions and comments concerning job performance should always be made in private and not in front of others. If private discussion does not have the desired effect then more formal procedures can be initiated.
It’s wiser and safer to watch one’s words!