Ageism row | HR worker, 45, felt victimised by younger colleagues who rebuffed her Christmas party suggestion

HR worker, 45, felt victimised by younger colleagues who rebuffed her Christmas party suggestion

A HR worker who sued for age discrimination because her younger colleagues wanted to go clubbing for their company Christmas party has lost her tribunal fight.

Claudia Morel-Zifonte Palladino launched legal action against Reed In Partnership after her suggestion of a family-friendly venue for the work party was dismissed in favour of a more 'entertaining' option.

Palladino, 45, claimed her younger colleagues were 'negative to derisive' in response to her recommendation, and thus she was treated unfavourably.

But an employment judge rejected her claims, ruling that she did not suffer a ‘detriment’ simply because co-workers disagreed with her suggestions. The judge also commented that Palladino’s conduct when discussing the festive plans might have contributed to her poor working relationship with younger colleagues.

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The dispute over where to go for the Christmas party occurred in 2021, the legal proceedings heard.

While discussing ideas for the annual end-of-year party, Palladino had suggested Willows Activity Farm, a venue primarily for children and families.

However, her colleagues, primarily in their 20s, expressed a preference for a “less family friendly, more entertaining” venue, the tribunal heard.

Palladino repeatedly used the word 'clubbing' to describe their wish, though Employment Judge Robin Lewis was not confident this was an accurate descriptor.

No co-workers supported Palladino’s venue recommendation, although senior management ultimately chose a restaurant to host the party – meaning they had not necessarily opted for the idea of Palladino’s younger colleagues either.

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Dismissing her argument, Employment judge Robin Lewis explained: “[Staff] were asked to make a suggestion. [Palladino's] suggestion was supported by no one except [her].

“That may have been on grounds of age; it may also have been a legitimate exercise of choice by colleagues, who by a large majority outnumbered [her].

“In the event, neither view prevailed. I do not accept that the simple act of being disagreed with constitutes a detriment.”

The judge also said: “I was shown a number of texts, messages and emails at the time all of which suggest that a minor banal everyday issue in a workplace - ie answering the question 'where shall we go out for a Christmas celebration' - generated in this workplace a wholly disproportionate volume of correspondence and emotion.

“All of that appears to have been at the instigation of [Palladino], and discrimination apart, such material as I saw shows a striking lack of insight on her part into the effect of her conduct at work.

“I comment that that lack may well form part of the explanation for poor working relationships with younger colleagues.”

The tribunal also dismissed a further claim from Palladino that she suffered age discrimination when a younger colleague claimed she "had a lot of experience" because it was 'factually correct'.

Another incident resulting in an unsuccessful age discrimination claim occurred when a colleague told Palladino not to climb on a chair to put up decorations, offering to do it herself because she was more agile.

The tribunal accepted that although the comment could be interpreted as “patronising or condescending”, it was more likely it was an act of courtesy.

Further claims raised by Palladino – relating to constructive dismissal and victimisation – are to be heard at a separate employment tribunal.

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