After her boss asked her about retirement and her staff expressed concern over her forgetfulness, a dementia sufferer won her case against Asda for age discrimination.
Joan Hutchinson, 75, worked in the George clothing department of the Asda store in Deeside, Wales, for 20 years before resigning on September 25, 2020.
Mrs Hutchinson, who was 73 at the time, resigned after her manager Stacey Weston-Laing made her feel she was being ‘pushed out of the business’ and ‘too old to be there’, a Cardiff employment tribunal heard.
She was noticed by her colleagues slowing down, getting ‘flustered’, losing her personal items, and walking to work one time because she couldn’t recall where the bus stopped.
But she refused to speak to the supermarket’s occupational health department or have her bosses speak to her family, the panel was told.
When Ms Weston Laing had to defend during Covid-19’s first lockdown in 2020 she – who also delivered her shopping while she was shielding her – asked her if her retirement plans were. The tribunal found this disturbing.
The tribunal learned that Mrs Hutchinson had a colleague who returned to work in the supermarket when she was back at home. “Violated her dignity” by searching through her bag for her keys and bus pass when it was not obvious.
Joan Hutchinson (75), worked for Asda in Deeside, Wales in the George department. She resigned on September 25, 2020.
The retail worker resigned, and he took over the shop She was granted her claim of discrimination against age or disability and constructive dismissal by the tribunal.
According to the tribunal, her son was born in 2017 Chris Hutchinson saw his mother showing signs of dementia. For three more years, she did not get a formal diagnosis.
After going wrong around a roundabout in Mrs Hutchinson’s direction, she had to stop driving. During work, however, she was frequently ‘forgetful’ and ‘confused’ according to the Tribunal.
Stacey Weston Laing, the section leader for George, was concerned that she appeared confused, lost keys, and forgot things.
According to the Tribunal, she was able to change her work hours at the supermarket so that she didn’t have the darkness of night driving.
On March 7, 2020, Mr Hutchinson spent the night with his mother in Buckley, North Wales, and noticed she was struggling to use certain items such as the iPad, television, microwave and oven.
When the first national lockdown was imposed later that month, Mrs Hutchinson had to leave work and shield in line with NHS guidance, which listed those Aged over 70 and considered ‘vulnerable.
Her manager Ms Weston-Laing brought her shopping while she isolated and She said that she was happy to leave groceries if needed.
Joanne Clitherow (Mrs Hutchinson’s child) told the tribunal that Ms Weston Laing asked her twice during lockdown if it was okay for her to retire.
Mrs Hutchinson answered ‘no’, and was upset that the panel asked her because she didn’t want to be at Asda.
After Mrs Hutchinson felt pushed out by her manager, she resigned. A Cardiff employment tribunal heard her story (photo: Cardiff magistrates Court).
Ms Weston Laing stated to the tribunal that Mrs Hutchinson had brought up the topic because she was afraid of returning to work after having seen the news and she wanted to find out what her options were if she chose to retire.
But the tribunal found that it was Ms Weston-Laing who had raised the possibility of retirement ‘on more than one occasion’.
“This might have been said in an eloquent manner, but we believe it was said,” the tribunal declared.
After shielding, it was agreed that Mrs Hutchinson would return to work on July 9, 2020.
The tribunal learned that Ms Weston Laing was concerned because Mrs Hutchinson took a long time to access her locker. She then became ‘flustered’.
It was necessary to remind Mrs Hutchinson that social distancing is important. Her stock took longer and she felt jittery when trying to hang returns.
After finishing her shift Mrs Hutchinson was unable to locate her keys and bus passes, so she took them with her.
Wendy Jerram was the deputy manager of her store and searched her bag for her possessions.
Later, Mrs Hutchinson reported the incident to her daughter. She said that she was upset by someone’s rummaging in her bag.
It was found that Mrs Hutchinson had acted with the best intentions, and she was grateful at the moment. However, this left her feeling upset.
Employment Judge Alison Frazer concluded that the act ‘violated her dignity’ and ‘amounted to disability related harassment’.
She said that the conduct was unwelcome and related to her illness, which was caused by her memory impairment.
Following the incident was discussed, Mrs. Hutchinson became aggressive and upset and stated she doesn’t require help.
Shop worker quit and went to the Tribunal. She won claims of discrimination against age or disability and constructive dismissal. Stock image
Ms Weston Laing asked if she was interested in occupational health. Her response: “I don’t have the time to do my job. So I’ll leave.”
The tribunal heard that Mrs Hutchinson then walked out and was given a lift home by another colleague. The tribunal heard that she did not return from work, and was dismissed for sick.
On behalf of his mother, Mr Hutchinson filed a complaint about the ‘unsafe working environment’ as well as ongoing bullying and harassment and asking for compensation. [Mrs Hutchinson]You can retire for many reasons’
On August 1, a grievance hearing was held, but no complaints were heard.
Mr Hutchinson, on behalf of his mother wrote in September a resignation letter citing discrimination based on her disability and age.
Judge Frazer upheld the claims of her client and said, “In our findings, given the background [Mrs Hutchinson]We were asked to consider retiring. [Asda]She was concerned that this was unwelcome and it created an environment of humiliation for her.
“We consider that this issue would not be raised with an employee not at retirement who had similar medical issues.
“We believe that repeated references to retirement are inappropriate. [her]Direct age discrimination was another option.
“It was made” [Mrs Hutchinson]Feel like she is being forced out of the company or something similar [Asda]She felt too old to go.
“On the grounds that it was mentioned more than once, we find it to be age-related harassment.
It was the uninvited conduct offenders [her] dignity.’
Although Mrs Hutchinson may qualify for compensation, any payouts could be cut as the tribunal pointed out that she was most likely to have been dismissed fairly if Asda had continued her work despite the fact she suffered from incapacity due to her condition.