£63K payout for St Albans sales rep after ‘Gramps’ ageism slur

Elma House

Elma House - Credit: Archant

The shine has been taken out of a luxury jewellery firm which has had to pay a St Albans man £63,000 in compensation after staff referred to him as ‘Gramps’ before he was unfairly sacked.

St Albans law firm Labrums Solicitors has helped Alan Dove, 61, secure the payout after successfully bringing an age discrimination case before the Watford Employment Tribunal.

Ironically, despite the derogatory term, Mr Dove is not actually a grandfather.

However, he was the oldest member of the sales team at luxury jewellers Brown & Newirth - the head office of which is at Elma House in Hatfield - when he was forced out.

The tribunal recently ruled in favour of the unfair dismissal and age discrimination case brought by the father-of-two, who was more than 10 years older than the rest of the team.

Mr Dove had worked as a “successful and experienced” sales rep for the firm for 25 years.

After joining Brown & Newirth, which specialises in wedding rings, in 1990, Mr Dove rose through the ranks to become responsible for middle England, south Wales and the Channel Islands.

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However, for several years before Mr Dove was unfairly sacked, head of sales, Gareth Thomas, aged in his thirties, would refer to him as ‘Gramps’.

The tribunal was told that other staff members also had nicknames including Mr Thomas, who was referred to as ‘Gimp boy’.

At the time of his dismissal Mr Dove was aged 60, making him the oldest member of the sales team. With no one else being over 50, he felt his clients had been ‘engineered away’.

In its ruling, the tribunal said: “At some point, Mr Thomas began using the nickname for the claimant of ‘Gramps’.

“His view [was that it] was an affectionate term of address which he did not [believe] to be insulting.

“It was suggested that other members of the team had nicknames, but we have not heard any.

“Mr Dove’s evidence was that he found the practise of calling him ‘Gramps’ disrespectful and hurtful, particularly after it was used over a number of years.”

In an email, Mr Thomas wrote that a client from another jewellery firm had complained that Mr Dove was “too long in the tooth and was a traditional sales rep which doesn’t work for their business any more.”

Director John Ball then terminated his employment in April last year.

The tribunal’s report concluded: “He was dismissed, in essence, because some of the clients that he was dealing with had been transferred to Mr Thomas by Mr Ball.

“This left, in Mr Ball’s view, insufficient income to be generated by the claimant.”

It said that the use of phrases such as ‘long in the tooth’, ‘old fashioned’ and ‘traditional’ referred to Mr Dove’s age and were “negative views almost certainly based on the claimant’s age”.

The Watford Employment Tribunal awarded him £63,390.95, which included a £9,000 payment for injury to feelings as well as loss of earnings.