A long-serving insurance worker has won an age discrimination case after his boss claimed he has been around ‘as long as Pontius Pilate’.
Chief executive Shirley Bellamy made the remark to David Finch as they negotiated a settlement agreement for him to leave her company, an employment tribunal heard.
The 66-year-old – who had worked in the industry for ‘a great many years’ – found the comparison with the ancient Roman governor of Israel who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ more than 2,000 years ago ‘humiliating and offensive’.
Ms Bellamy also asked him if he should have an afternoon nap due to falling asleep at work due to multiple health conditions and suggested the heart attack survivor move his holiday forward as the Covid pandemic could prove to be fatal to him.
Mr. Finch is now in line for compensation after winning age and disability discrimination claims against firm Clegg Gifford & Co.
The hearing in East London was told the insurance veteran had worked since 2017 as a credit controller for the company at its office in Romford, Essex, since it had taken over his former employer.
Veteran insurance worker David Finch has won an age discrimination claim against his employer Clegg gifford & Co after his boss joked he wouldn’t survive the pandemic
The court heard he was ‘obviously very good’ at his job but suffered from diabetes and anaemia, medication for which made him drowsy.
The hearing was told that because of this Mr Finch sometimes fell asleep in the office, leading to Ms Bellamy in early 2020 repeatedly asking him within earshot of others “are you planning a nap this afternoon? “
Finch found the remark “humiliating and degrading”, the court was told.
In March of that year, Mr Finch was supposed to screen due to Covid. In a conversation about sick leave, Mrs Bellamy suggested Mr Finch bring forward a planned holiday.
The court heard she told him: ‘You should be on holiday now. Otherwise, you may not be present in September or October.’
Mrs Finch thought Mrs Bellamy thought he might be dead by then.
He emailed her: ‘Having such a hurtful comment said…has only added to the stress and anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the current situation.’
In April, the government introduced the leave scheme that the company offered to many of its employees, including Mr. Finch, which he accepted, with the alternative of dismissal.
A panel at the East London Tribunal Center (pictured) found Ms Bellamy’s comments amounted to age discrimination and an amount of damages has yet to be determined
As workers were allowed back into the office, Mr Finch expressed his concerns about using public transport and entering the office as government guidelines suggested he stay at home.
In July, he told the company that he was allowed back into the office, but that he might have trouble using the limited public transport routes.
But in the same month he received a letter with a settlement agreement without prior hearing, which also set terms for dismissal.
Sir. Finch replied to Ms Bellamy – who herself has worked at Clegg Gifford for 48 years – noting that the offer had incorrectly stated his start date at the firm and noted his long service.
She emailed back and said: “You have received the maximum amount of statutory severance pay and we know you have been around since Pontius was Pilate… We will amend the necessary information and send it to you.”
The hearing was told Mr Finch refused to accept the proposed settlement and instead responded with a series of allegations against Ms Bellamy.
In response, the CEO demanded that he return to the office to fulfill his contract, whereupon Finch resigned.
The court upheld part of Finch’s claim for violence, constructive dismissal and part of his claim for age-related harassment.
In its verdict, the panel said: ‘This may be due to the longevity [Mrs Bellamy’s] career, but it became apparent…that she has a complete lack of such as equality or diversity training.
‘The picture we got of [Mrs Bellamy] is that she can be somewhat thoughtless in how she expresses herself, and in ways we’ve now found out, at least sometimes insensitive.
“The Employment Tribunal agrees that the reference to Pontius Pilate can be objectively offensive. By analogy, it can be deeply offensive to a Christian.’
Asking Mr Finch if he wanted a nap was ‘crass’, the panel found, and regarding the early holiday remark, added: ‘[Mr Finch] clearly perceived that it was deeply hurtful and humiliating given the life-threatening nature of his disability.’
The court also found Ms Bellamy ‘forced his hand’ and victimized him by demanding he return to work after rejecting the settlement offer.
Generally, ‘these acts of discrimination were cumulatively serious enough to justify [Mr Finch] in resigning and treating himself as constructively dismissed because of this discrimination,’ it ruled.
A hearing to determine the amount of compensation Mr Finch will receive will take place at a later date.