Winkworth employee wins employment tribunal on age discrimination grounds

A woman who was told she might be “better suited to a traditional estate agency” was discriminated against because of her age, a tribunal has ruled.

Carolina Gomes worked as branch administrator for a Winkworth franchise.

She claimed constructive dismissal against Henworth, trading as Winkworth, and director Graham Gold.

The discrimination allegations were denied in evidence given by Gold, human resources adviser Fiona Mendel and lettings director Sean Doherty, where the focus was on Gomes’s work performance.

Gomes, born in 1956, had earlier worked for Bron and Morley, an estate agent trading as Winkworth in Hendon, north London, before transferring to Henworth, where she worked in its Hendon branch.

In February 2016, Doherty met with Gomes and told her she needed to take more care with her paperwork. Notes were taken of the meeting by Gold but not shown to Gomes.

This was following by another meeting, this time between Gomes and Gold the following month.

Saying “This marriage isn’t working”, Gold produced a letter typed to a solicitor, containing errors. He said a note would be placed on her performance record.

He added that she would be “better suited to a traditional estate agency”. Gomes took this to mean that he considered her too old to work at a modern Winkworth office and asked him what he meant.

He replied saying: “Sleep on it and decide what you want to do.”

A grievance procedure followed but Gomes resigned. A brief appeal meeting was held by telephone conference, with the appeal dismissed.

The tribunal described the appeal meeting as “perfunctory”.

It concluded that the comment “better suited to a traditional estate agency” would not have been made to a younger person, and therefore that the claimant had been discriminated because of age.

The case was decided in June, at Watford, and published on August 31. The results of a settlement hearing are unknown.

It has now featured in the HR magazine People Management, which quotes Laurie Anstis, senior associate solicitor at Boyes Turner: “This is a reminder to employers of the risks of using words that could be taken to be a reference to someone’s age.

“An age discrimination [claim] can be brought where the comments allude to an employee’s age, even if they do not directly refer to it.”

A spokesperson at head office told EYE that each Winkworth office is individually owned, operating its own HR and staff appraisal processes.