88-year-old becomes oldest person to win age discrimination claim
An 88-year-old woman who was dismissed from her job with the NHS has become the oldest person in the UK to win an age discrimination claim.
Eileen Jolly told the Employment Tribunal that she felt “humiliated and degraded” by the way she was treated by the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Mrs Jolly had started working for the NHS in 1991 when she was 61. In 2005, she became a medical secretary. Part of her role involved ensuring that no one went beyond the 52-week waiting time limit for surgery.
The system was changed in 2015 to an electronic patient record system. Mrs Jolly was scheduled to receive formal training on the new system but for reasons outside her control that never took place.
When she returned from holiday in 2016, she was called to see the director of operations who told her to collect her things and leave the premises because she was being investigated in relation to breaches of the 52-week deadline.
That was the first time she had heard there had been any breaches. She described the incident as awful and recalled a colleague saying, “she won’t be coming back”.
A trust manager carried out an investigation which included feedback from Mrs Jolly’s colleagues about her age and frailty. She was then dismissed for failing in her duties to manage the waiting list.
The Employment Tribunal upheld her claim of unfair dismissal and age discrimination.
Judge Gumbiti-Zimuto said: “There is a suspicion of the Claimant (Mrs Jolly) being a scapegoat. She was not offered training where it might be considered appropriate (remembering that this is a case where an investigation found that consultants and admin staff required more training).
“There was evidence of the Claimant’s training having been inadequate, incomplete and ‘on the job’ training was ad hoc and not directed.”
The judge added that the Trust’s investigation had been unreasonable because it took into account comments from colleagues about Mrs Jolly’s age and frailty.
“We consider that if comments about the frailty of younger persons had been made they would have been addressed in a manner which allowed for them to be given the consideration they deserve: dealing with any issues of performance if justified or disregarding any inappropriate and unjustified comments.”
The Claimant’s dismissal was tainted by discrimination and was harassment related to age and disability. The dismissal was in our view unfair.”
A remedy hearing has been scheduled to determine how Mrs Jolly should be compensated.
Please contact Jackie Cuneen if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.