Newsletter – April 2008

Hippodrome Theatre Manager had no problem being managed by women younger than himself - Tribunal Ruling

Mr Hussain was employed at the Hippodrome Theatre from 1980 and was promoted to Front of House Manager in 1984. Ms Keight arrived at the theatre in 2003 as Theatre Manager, which was converted to General Manager in 2004. Ms Hawke arrived in 2006 as the Assistant Manager. The problems that resulted in Mr Hussain's dismissal involved his relationship with Ms Keight and subsequently with Ms Hawke. Mr Hussain made numerous complaints about the way in which Ms Keight managed him, some trivial and others more substantial. His first substantial complaint related to the re-organisation of the Front of House in July 2004 which required the appointment of an Assistant Front of House Manager. There was little liaison by Ms Keight about the re-organisation which was put into effect without warning whilst Mr Hussain was away on holiday. She also appointed the Bar Steward to the new role without consulting him.

Mary Poppins!

Another significant problem occurred in October 2004, when a major fault with stage machinery necessitated the cancellation of the World Premiere of Mary Poppins. Mr Hussain handled what was potentially a public relations disaster, including negotiations for refunds and compensation for which the show's producer thanked him. Ms Keight left it all to Mr Hussain and did not thank him for or acknowledge his efforts. There were then a number of further incidents culminating on 28 March 2007 when Ms Keight handed Mr Hussain an envelope, signed by Ms Hawke, summoning him to a disciplinary hearing. Mr Hussain was about to go on holiday and he went to Ms Keight's office he says to express his displeasure. Ms Keight alleged that he was threatening and he was suspended without being told why and asked to attend a meeting. At that meeting he was told he would be dismissed so they wanted him to resign with a £6,000 settlement, which Mr Hussain refused. He was eventually told the dismissal was for bullying and being "beyond our management control". Mr Hussain brought claims for unfair dismissal, race and age discrimination.

No problem working with younger managers

The Hippodrome based its case for gross misconduct on the incident on 28 March. Senior management considered that "his [Mr Hussain's] main issue was being managed by two younger members of management". The Tribunal began by noting the wide-ranging selection of witnesses (including previous managers) who spoke in support of Mr Hussain. Evidence of Mr Hussain's "team spirit" came from one Trainee Assistant Manager who worked with Mr Hussain in her first role out of university. The Tribunal concluded that this indicated that Mr Hussain was able to deal with young female managers as well as male or older senior managers. The Tribunal concluded there was no evidence for the assertion he had a problem being managed by younger women. Instead, senior management were simply looking for an opportunity to get rid of him. Mr Hussain was awarded loss of earnings to the date of the Tribunal hearing together with six months' future losses. He was also awarded £5,000 representing injury to feelings in respect of age discrimination. The Tribunal went on to order a 40% uplift in compensation for the failure to follow the statutory dismissal procedure. This decision emphasises that Tribunals will look carefully at the reason for a dismissal when age discrimination is alleged. The Theatre failed to substantiate its belief that Mr Hussain was opposed to managers who were younger than him, particularly in the light of his evidence in rebuttal. Further, there was no investigation by senior managers of the incident which resulted in Mr Hussain's dismissal.

Baldness is not a disability - Tribunal Ruling

A retired schoolteacher who claimed he was a victim of disability discrimination because he is bald has lost his claim. James Campbell, 61, formerly an art teacher at Denny High School in Stirlingshire, took Falkirk Council to an Employment Tribunal over the issue. He told the Glasgow Tribunal he had suffered from harassment at the hands of pupils because of his baldness. In his ruling, the tribunal judge said baldness was "not an impairment". Mr Campbell, from Stirlingshire, who is also claiming constructive and unfair dismissal against the council, said pupils at the school perceived his baldness as a weakness. He claimed his baldness had a "substantial and long term adverse effect" on his ability to do his job. Falkirk Council argued that baldness was not a physical or mental impairment and was therefore not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

Tribunal judge Robert Gall said that because Mr Campbell's baldness was used by others to taunt him, it did not mean it was a disability. He said:-

"It seems to me to take the definition of impairment too far if baldness of itself is to be regarded as being an impairment.”If baldness was to be regarded as an impairment then perhaps a physical feature such as a big nose, big ears or being smaller than average height might of themselves be regarded as an impairment under the DDA. "That, to me, cannot be right looking to the DDA, the guidance and relevant case law.''

Legal experts believe that this "baldness" ruling is in keeping with the definition of disability in the DDA, which states that for the purposes of the Act:

  • Substantial means neither minor nor trivial;
  • Long term means that the effect of the impairment has lasted or is likely to last for at least 12 months (there are special rules covering recurring or fluctuating conditions);
  • Normal day-to-day activities include everyday things like eating, washing, walking and going shopping; and
  • A normal day-to-day activity must affect one of the 'capacities' listed in the Act which include mobility, manual dexterity, speech, hearing, seeing and memory.
"Thick and Lazy" Police officer to claim £500,000 for dyslexia resignation

Dyslexia is certainly covered by this DDA definition. And a trainee police officer is seeking £500,000 compensation after he was forced to quit his post at an Essex Police Station because he was dyslexic. According to press reports, Officer Owen Brooking's superiors labelled him 'thick' and 'lazy', despite him having passed his initial training programme. Brooking complained to the Stratford Employment Tribunal that the Essex force made no allowances for his dyslexia, and ridiculed him. The tribunal ruled he was left with 'no option' but to resign, because he was 'taunted and humiliated' by some of his colleagues, while also being forced to re-do endless paperwork in a deliberate bid to humiliate him, the tribunal found. Brooking is demanding half a million pounds in compensation to reflect lost earnings and pension rights from being denied a 30-year police career. Brooking currently works as a Police Community Support Officer in Leigh-on-Sea. The compensation figure is to go before a High Court judge.

Transsexual trucker triumphant at her employment tribunal.

A transsexual who claimed she was hounded out of her job as a trucker after she began her transition from her former male gender has triumphed at her employment tribunal. Vikki-Marie Gaynor, 37, from Wallasey in Wirral, is waiting to hear the exact sum of compensation she will be rewarded following her successful claims of sexual discrimination against Exel Europe, part of delivery giant DHL, and recruitment agency Blue Arrow.

The ex-soldier, who got her HGV licence through the Royal Corps, reported that previously friendly members of staff began a campaign of harassment against her after she began her transition from her former male gender. The campaign included dumping her belongings and make-up in a toilet. She further claims she was hounded out of her job because her managers failed to support her. All that they did in response to her complaint was to remove her from her regular shift to a new shift where colleagues took up and sustained the campaign of harassment which included verbal abuse and physical attacks.

Ten Million People will work from home - 2018 Forecast

Within a decade ten million workers will be at home juggling their careers with caring for children and older relatives, the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has forecast. Futurologists are predicting there will be less talk about 'work-life balance' and more about 'work-life integration.' CMI's report on the nature of employment in 2018 predicts an exodus from the traditional workplace caused partly by environmental pressure to reduce the carbon footprint of commuting and partly by the demographic pressure of an ageing population, with fewer employees able to avoid looking after older relatives, leading to a blurring of boundaries between family and career. The report said there would be a proliferation of 'virtual' companies, often small community-based enterprises without conventional business premises. CMI's Mary Chapman said:

'A greater degree of emotional intelligence will be required by managers and leaders so they can understand how people work and their likely reaction to change. They will also need to shift from today's input-driven approach to a focus on output, achievement and a better integration between work and personal lives.'