Sales manager was victimised after raising allegations of discrimination, tribunal rules

28 May 2021 By Elizabeth Howlett

Claimant reported feeling ‘gaslit’ by colleague and resorted to recording conversations

A sales manager was subject to victimisation after he raised allegations of discrimination against senior management, a tribunal has ruled. 

The tribunal also heard that Mr M Weinreb, who worked for Online Travel Training Group (OTTG), resorted to recording conversations after he felt “gaslit” by a manager who made him think altercations were his fault, which the tribunal ruled was not always the case.

Further claims of harassment and direct discrimination failed.

Weinreb worked for OTTG as a business development manager from September 2017 until his dismissal in July 2019.

On 2 November 2017, after two months of working with OTTG, the tribunal heard there was an altercation between Weinreb and finance manager Patricia Andrade after Weinreb asked for help.

Andrade allegedly criticised Weinreb for being a “child” and needing his “hand held”, which Weinreb said he “did not take kindly to”. Andrade brought the exchange up with Weinreb the following day, which the tribunal said was her “goading” Weinreb and creating conflict where “none was necessary”.

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The tribunal heard there were several other subsequent incidents between Weinreb and various OTTG employees. In March 2018, Andrade called Weinreb a “princess” in an email. Then in February 2019, fellow business development manager Kenny Smith sent Weinreb – who is Jewish – a WhatsApp message asking “is that the Jew coming out of u?” during a discussion about teamwork.

Weinreb also alleged that on 29 April 2019, when he, Andrade and Smith were discussing the gay dating app Grindr, Andrade said Weinreb was “acting prestige” – alluding to the paid service on the app – which he thought was her implying he was a closet homosexual.

Weinreb left the room and went to the toilet to “get away from the situation” but claimed Andrade followed him into the toilet and banged on the cubicle door.

In May 2019, Weinreb and Andrade had a disagreement about his commission and Weinreb decided to record the conversation without asking permission, but made Andrade aware of the recording. Despite apologising to her the next day, Andrade raised a formal grievance against him to managing director Julia Feuell.

Weinreb also raised a grievance alleging discrimination and challenged the employment review meeting.

Feuell upheld Andrade’s grievance and decided that in future the pair should only communicate by email. Feuell then asked the chair of the advisory board, John Melchior, to investigate Weinreb’s grievance, and he concluded there had not been any discrimination against Weinreb. However, Melchior did recommend that management speak to Andrade, reminding her of the rules of “showing respect to her colleagues”.

Melchior invited Weinreb to a meeting on 4 June 2019 to discuss the outcome of the grievance and “find a way forward”. He also invited Feuell to the meeting and introduced her as “just listening”, which the tribunal said was “inappropriate”. Weinreb recorded the meeting.

The tribunal heard that during the meeting, Feuell became frustrated and banged on the desk. She told Weinreb she was “upset and offended” by his allegations of discrimination.

Weinreb appealed the grievance outcome, but the appeal was rejected.

Feuell invited Weinreb to another employment review meeting on 20 June 2019 but he was ill with food poisoning and the meeting was delayed until 26 June. Weinreb was then signed off work by his doctor until 17 July to recover, but the meeting went ahead without him. He sent over his positions and allegations to Feuell but they were all rejected.

He subsequently received a letter explaining that he was being dismissed because his “conduct was unacceptable”, but it did not specify what conduct was being referred to. Feuell told the tribunal that she believed Weinreb’s allegations to be “spurious” and described them as “serious and upsetting”. Weinreb appealed but this was again rejected.

In its judgment, the tribunal said that Feuell banging on the table at the grievance outcome and her refusal to give Weinreb any details before his employment review meeting amounted to victimisation. 

Judge Davidson said: “She was angry that the claimant [Weinreb] had raised the issue of discrimination and she took the matter personally. She would not have behaved this way if he had not made the allegations of discrimination.”

Additionally, Davidson said he understood why Weinreb felt “gaslit” by OTTG in light of the evidence presented, and understood why he would resort to making voice notes to provide “objective evidence” of what actually happened.

However, the tribunal did not believe OTTG dismissed Weinreb because of his failure to accept that his grievance had not been upheld.

Alan Lewis, partner at Constantine Law, said the case highlighted the need for proper procedure when an employee raised a grievance.

“The whole purpose of having protection against victimisation is to reassure an employee who raises a grievance that they can do so without fear of being penalised on those grounds,” he said, adding that Weinreb being penalised after making a grievance is “precisely” what happened in this case.

A spokesperson for OTTG told People Management the firm was “disappointed” that the claim of victimisation was upheld, and that it will be studying the judgment carefully.

“The Online Travel Training Group is fully committed to creating an inclusive working environment and we shall be conducting a review to ensure all our staff understand the importance of respect in the workplace,” they said.

Weinreb could not be reached for comment. 

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