After university bosses became sick of her “shouting” and fired her, a senior academic claimed that criticisms of her natural loud voice were racist.

After 30 years of service at Exeter University as a Physics Professor, Dr Annette Plaut was fired unfairly. An employment tribunal found that Plaut had been referred to by some as a “Marmite” character.

She admitted that she was “inherently loud”, “naturally argumentative” in conversations, used vigorous hand gestures and was passionate about Physics. 

The University of Exeter professor was liked by many colleagues and students. However, coworkers were not happy with her teaching style.

After bosses claimed she also shouted at PhD students, causing stress and anxiety, the physicist in question was fired and suspended.

But, in Exeter Dr Plaut, a daughter of German parents claimed she has “inherent characteristics” of loudness and a style of conversation that includes a lot of hand movements and an argumentative style. 

When she got excited, her body language turned demonstrative and she insisted that she couldn’t do anything about it.

Paul Housego, an Employment Judge, found the university guilty in harassment, victimization, and unfair dismissal for the sacking. He also criticised the treatment of an academic with such a long history. 

Dr Plaut claimed her eastern European Jewish heritage and upbringing means she has 'inherent characteristics of loudness'

Dr. Plaut claims that her Eastern European Jewish heritage and upbringing has given her ‘inherent qualities of loudness’

Finding Exeter University guilty of harassment, victimisation and unfair dismissal over the sacking, Employment Judge Paul Housego criticised the way an academic of such long standing could have been treated

Paul Housego, an Employment Judge, found Exeter University guilty in harassment, victimisation, and unfair dismissal for the sacking. He also criticised how an academic with such a long history could have been treated

“Dr. Plaut could not be tolerated any longer” was the conclusion of senior management. She was subject to a disciplinary inquiry over allegations she made about a doctor student, then used that as a pretext to fire her.

After successfully sueting the university, the experimental physics lecturer, who is an expert in graphene and was first woman in her department, will now be eligible for compensation. 

This academic was born in Germany to parents who moved there before World War Two. He joined the university’s Physics and Astronomy Department in 1990.

Tribunal heard that “Dr. Plaut is very passionate about Physics.” Although she can control her personality and try to keep it under control, she is prone to expressing herself when discussing physics.

“She explained to her students that that is how she was and advised them not to take offence.

“Over the years, many colleagues and students have found Dr Plaut somewhat too overbearing. This despite her telling students and coworkers that it is not true.

“There was an opinion among some high ranking members of the department, that Dr. Plaut could have been allowed for so many years to indulge in behavior which shouldn’t be tolerated.”

“Others respected her contribution and acknowledged that she was not an annoying person even though she could be loudly argumentative when discussing.

Dr. Plaut claims that her negative attitude towards her is unconscious racism. It stems from her cultural upbringing.

She said that it was particularly offensive to suggest that her shouting is loud, and that this word was a big insult to her.

We have a lot of evidence to support our conclusion that’she’s a Marmite-person’ is accurate.

In 2017, Dr. Plaut was teaching and the Human Resources department at University became involved. She worked with staff members to determine how to explain it to students.

Dr. Plaut was furious at being called unnaturally high and demanded to be called ‘naturally low’.

The tribunal was informed that Dr. Plaut had been causing friction within the department.

Panel members were informed that she had been suspended in January 2019, for gross misconduct, after she made a claim about a student who was female and shined a laser in her eyes.

Dr. Plaut said she was explaining scientific concepts of saturation to the student and used a table light to show it. But she later apologised.

The university sent her a warning letter in which it acknowledged that her loudness was not intentional, and expressed concerns about her inability to control her behavior.

The panel was at a April return-to-work meeting and she revealed that her relationships with senior university management had deteriorated further after suggesting to them that one of her bosses wasn’t open to critique in his position as head of equality.

The tribunal heard that Bosses “seized” on the comment in order to take further action against the academic, even though she did not wish it.

Another student of Dr. Plaut told the university that he was interested in changing lecturers. However, his bosses falsely said that it would only be possible if he made complaints about her.

The result was Dr. Plaut faced with yet another allegation that he ‘frequently shouted during meetings avec a PhD student, causing them stress & anxiety’.

Senior management, including Janice Kay Provost Janice Kay, wanted Dr. Plaut to go.

According to the report, it was clear that Dr. Plaut wanted dismissed by all.

After a December 2019 hearing at the Discipline Committee, the physicist received a second suspension and was fired.

Paul Housego, an Employment Judge, found the university guilty in harassment, victimisation, and unfair dismissal. He also criticised the treatment of an academic with such a long history.

He stated that the organisation was large and had a high reputation. The academic career of its members is handled with high professionalism.

“This is a greater obligation for someone who has worked 30 years for you. High-ranking management determined that Dr.Plaut was not to be continued.

“The positive things she has done throughout the years were not given any weight.

‘The Tribunal does not doubt but for some people Dr Plaut’s approach to life was highly uncomfortable, but that fails to appreciate that this is a façade behind which the evidence is of a long serving dedicated and caring academic.’

Judge Housego proposed that Dr.Plaut should be provided with help and given the opportunity to modify her approach.

Dr. Plaut’s additional claims for racial or sex discrimination have been dismissed by the panel. He will receive compensation at a later stage.