Mr Dixon worked as a Gamekeeper for Croglin Estate Ltd (“Croglin”). He worked and lived at the Stanhope Moor estate. Gamekeeping was, in the words of Mr Dixon, “my whole life”.
Croglin noticed a substantial drop in the annual numbers of grouse on the site, from 1,855 brace to 1,215 brace. This represented a drop in capital value of the estate of some £2.5m. Croglin prepared a report setting out their plan to remedy this by removing Mr Dixon from his position, claiming that he was “set in his ways”, “unlikely to change” and that he would not be able to do “all the GPS computer work”. Croglin had formed the view that he was old-fashioned and was not performing.
Mr Dixon brought claims of unfair dismissal, direct age discrimination and victimisation.
At the start of the hearing, Croglin conceded unfair dismissal. It admitted that it had not followed any fair procedure (or any procedure at all).
In relation to the direct age discrimination claim, the Tribunal found that the comments in report identified above, as well as comments in further reports and at meetings that Croglin wanted “a younger team leader” and that Mr Dixon was “too old” for the “young man’s job” that gamekeeping is, were sufficient to shift the burden of proof. It was for Croglin to prove that it did not dismiss Mr Dixon because of age.
The Tribunal held that Croglin had failed to do this. Croglin was unable to adduce any evidence to demonstrate its belief that Mr Dixon was old-fashioned and their witnesses were less than persuasive, less than credible and were lacking in consistency.
The Tribunal therefore upheld Mr Dixon’s age discrimination claim.
In relation to remedy, the Tribunal did not accept Croglin’s argument that Mr Dixon had contributed to his own dismissal and awarded him compensation totalling £110,330.00. This included £20,000 for injury to feelings and £4,000 in aggravated damages because of Croglin’s “high-handed, insulting and oppressive” behaviour because it had failed to follow any procedure and because it had attempted to pressure Mr Dixon’s witnesses into not giving evidence.
Mr David Dixon v Croglin Estate Co Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne Employment Tribunal, case number 2502955/2011