Female sales assistant, 52, wins payout for age and sex discrimination after her male boss shouted that she ‘must be in her menopause’
- Leigh Best, 52, won an age and sex harassment case against her employers
- Business owner David Fletcher yelled at her she ‘Must be in her menopause’
- When Mrs Best complained to his wife she was told ‘stop moaning’
A sales assistant won an age and sex harassment case after her male boss bellowed at the top of his voice she ‘Must be in her menopause’ after she mixed up an order.
Leigh Best, 52, heard the remark during a disagreement with owner David Fletcher at the upmarket pet food business where she worked.
An employment tribunal heard Mr Fletcher made the remark after married Mrs Best had covered her ears and said: ‘I don’t want to hear about it’ when a customer mentioned having a ‘hot flush’.
When she complained about his comments to his wife and fellow owner Andrea, she was told to ‘stop moaning’ and a month later she was sacked.
Mrs Best, who now owns her own raw pet food business Rawkings Premium, took her employers to the tribunal and is now set to receive compensation after winning claims of age and sex discrimination and unfair dismissal.
The panel found Mr Fletcher had broached a ‘highly sensitive topic’ and acted ‘tactlessly’ when he asked her about the menopause.
Leigh Best, 52, won an age and sex harassment case against her employers at dog food firm
Business owner David Fletcher yelled at her she ‘Must be in her menopause’ over order error. He is pictured here alongside his wife Elaine,
The hearing in East London was told Mrs Best, who is now 54, started working for Embark on Raw, a raw dog and cat food business based near Billericay, Essex in January 2019.
In March 2020 she had a ‘relatively small’ argument over an order mix up with Mr Fletcher which led to him shouting about her being menopausal from a back room, the tribunal was told.
‘(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 panel was told.
The tribunal found he did this ‘even after…she had made it quite clear that 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.’
Tribunal said she was victimised for complaining about Mr Fletcher’s behaviour towards her
When Mrs Best complained to Mrs Fletcher about what her husband had said, the tribunal concluded that 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’.
The tribunal heard that before her complaint Mrs Best had raised concerns about the way the business and staff were dealing with the Covid pandemic.
As it was classed an essential business, Embark on Raw stayed open during lockdown.
Mrs Best had, on multiple occasions, raised concerns about Covid safety procedures at work, the tribunal was told.
Although the Fletchers assured its customers it was following hygiene procedures, Mrs Best claimed that these were not ‘implemented’ and ‘enforced’.
The panel heard she 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 also told she ‘expressed extreme anxiety and stress’ when she noticed one of her colleagues coughing while not wearing a mask.
She complained to Mrs Fletcher about the ‘worrying situation in the shop’ but was told she was told she was ‘paranoid’ and asked to stop ‘digging’ fellow employees.
This led to Mrs Fletcher accusing her on April 20 of creating ‘a divide in the business, in your words and your actions to other people’.
It was during that conversation that Mrs Best raised her concerns about Mr Fletcher’s menopause comments, the tribunal heard.
When he heard of this ‘awful conversation’, he told his wife ‘it’s time to let her go now’.
And in May 2020, she was sacked for ‘rude’ and ‘confrontational’ communication with co-workers and managers – a decision she unsuccessfully appealed.
However, the tribunal ruled she had actually been sacked for raising her covid concerns and then victimised for complaining about Mr Fletcher’s behaviour towards her.
The tribunal, headed by 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.
‘He asked that question even after… she had made it quite clear that she did not wish to participate in any such discussion.
‘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.
Mrs Best will be awarded damages at a hearing on January 31.
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