A captain of industry stunned his personal assistant when she turned 50 by allegedly telling her: 'I need to trade you in for a younger model.'

Dawn Bailey claims she was forced out of her £75,000-a-year post with Lockheed Martin, one of the world's largest defence firms.

She was PA to Stephen Ball, 59, UK chief executive of the military giant, but claims he announced four days after her 50th birthday it was 'time for a younger new team'.

Dawn Bailey (right) outside the Central London Employment Tribunal where she is suing defence company Lockheed Martin after allegedly being forced out by the chief executive Stephen Ball (left)

His comments came after she was diagnosed with a rare disease which left her short of breath and excessively tired. He is also alleged to have told her: 'You being ill is disruptive to me and others in the office.'

Miss Bailey's allegations were made at Central London Employment Tribunal where she is claiming age and disability discrimination.

She said that despite her working for the company for 19 years, it had become 'impossible' for her to carry on.

 Before becoming chief executive in 2009, Mr Ball was Lockheed's director of combat systems, where he was responsible for the weapons procurement for the UK Apache helicopter, as flown by Prince Harry.

In a witness statement to the tribunal, Miss Bailey's lawyer Peter McRoberts said: 'Mr Ball said to the claimant, whether in jest or otherwise, “I need to trade you in for a younger model”. On January 5 last year, she said Mr Ball told her, “It is time for a younger, new team”.'

Miss Bailey alleges Mr Ball made comments about 'trading her in for a younger model' on numerous occasions.

She also accuses Mr Ball of saying he planned to use 'younger female employees at trade shows undertaken by the company'.

Miss Bailey, now 51, said: 'Such comments and actions indicated Mr Ball's intolerance of illness and seniority of age, even though he is older than [me] and a senior member of the management team.'

In her career at the defence company she had risen through the ranks from secretary to become executive assistant to Mr Ball, working in the company's London offices, before her contract was ended this year.

Unmarried Miss Bailey, who lives in a £247,500 three-bedroom detached house in Winfarthing, Norfolk, enjoyed an 'unblemished' record at the company, the tribunal was told.

However, at the end of 2010 she was diagnosed with the chronic illness Sarcoidosis. As well as shortness of breath and tiredness, she suffered swollen joints and was prone to coughing fits. There is no cure but for most sufferers the disease will go away without treatment after a few years.When she confided in Mr Ball about her illness, she claims he told her it was 'disruptive' to him and others in the office.

Over the following year she took several weeks off sick, and claims that in her absence her job was slimmed down and sidelined as the company laid the ground to get rid of her.

When she did return to work, initially on a phased basis and then full time, Mr Ball gave her a self-help book called Who Moved My Cheese? – a bestseller warning employees who fail to change with the times they risk being made 'extinct'.

Miss Bailey's solicitor said: '[She] found this survival-of-the-fittest theory humiliating and insulting, particularly given her inability to change her circumstances, namely the fact that she had been diagnosed as suffering from Sarcoidosis.'

In September 2011, Miss Bailey lodged a grievance complaint about her 'utterly cruel' treatment, but this was dismissed by internal investigators. Two months later she was suspended pending an evaluation of her health by an occupational health expert, and escorted from the company's offices.

In February she resigned, claiming constructive dismissal.

Her allegations are strongly contested by Lockheed Martin, which said it 'was at all times supportive of Miss Bailey throughout her illness' and that 'Mr Ball personally wanted to support her in dealing with her illness'.

The firm claimed Miss Bailey had never raised concerns about ageist comments to Mr Ball, and that her allegations were judged 'unfounded' by internal investigators.

Mr Ball said he redistributed her workload to help her cope because of her illness, and that she was offered another job in the company.

The company's statement said: 'In a genuine attempt to resolve the situation, the respondent made a commercial decision to offer the claimant an opportunity to exit the business and provide her with some financial assistance to do so.

'A compromise agreement was offered purely in response to her repeated assertions that she felt her position was no longer tenable.'

The employment panel has adjourned the case and hopes to reach a verdict by Christmas.

Article from Mail online