Mrs Harper began employment with Northampton Borough Council in 1986 as a Project Co-ordinator. By 2006 she had a management role overseeing apprenticeship programmes. Her employment transferred in August 2006 to Moulton College (“the College”) and her job title changed to Apprenticeship Schemes Assistant Manager. Ms Lane held the same role.
In 2008, Mrs Harper was relocated into the work-based learning department and her job title changed again to Business Services Co-ordinator. Mrs Harper’s new role was office-based administration, whereas she had been used to a field-based role. She regarded this job as a backwards step.
Mrs Harper resigned and claimed constructive unfair dismissal and age discrimination. Mrs Harper, 58, claimed that her change of job was imposed upon her in preference to Ms Lane, 34.
The Employment Tribunal upheld her unfair dismissal claim. The College had breached the implied term of mutual trust and confidence and there had been a constructive unfair dismissal.
In relation to the age discrimination claim, the College sought to explain its actions by arguing that Mrs Harper had to be the one to change positions as her caseload was smaller than Ms Lane’s. However, evidence heard at the hearing showed that this was not true. Ms Lane actually had the smaller caseload.
Given the difference in treatment and difference in age (and in the absence of any other plausible explanation by the College), the Employment Tribunal concluded that the real reason for the treatment of Mrs Harper was that she was approaching the final years of her career and working life, whereas Ms Lane had considerably more years ahead of her. For this reason, the Employment Tribunal upheld Mrs Harper’s age discrimination claim.
The Employment Tribunal awarded Mrs Harper compensation of £144,099.89, comprising of £9,870 for her unfair dismissal claim and £134,229.89 for her age discrimination claim. The bulk of Mrs Harper’s compensation for her age discrimination claim was to cover pension loss. The College ran a generous scheme and the Employment Tribunal stated it was unlikely that Mrs Harper would be entitled to a comparable pension scheme in any new employment.
Harper -v- Moulton College, Employment Tribunal Bedford. Case number 1200970/2009.