Boss’s menopause jibe to end in harassment payout

Boss’s menopause jibe to end in harassment payout

A middle-aged sales assistant has won an age and sex harassment case after her male boss made loud comments about her going through the menopause in front of customers.

Leigh Best, 54, (pictured) heard her boss shouting “at the top of his voice” at the upmarket raw pet food business near Billericay, Essex, where she worked, that she “must be in her menopause”, an employment tribunal was told.

David Fletcher, the shop owner, made the remark after a customer spoke to Best about having a “hot flush” and Best had covered her ears and said: “I don’t even want to hear about it.”

When Best complained about the remark to Fletcher’s wife, Andrea, who co-owns the shop, she was told to “stop moaning”. A month later, in May 2020, she was sacked. Best took her employers to the tribunal and is now set to receive compensation after winning her claims of age and sex discrimination and unfair dismissal. She now owns her own raw pet food business, RawKings.

The hearing panel in east London found that Fletcher broached a “highly sensitive topic” and acted “tactlessly” in asking her about the menopause.

In March 2020 she had a “relatively small” argument with Fletcher about an order mix-up, which led to him shouting from a back room about her being menopausal, the tribunal heard.

“He made inappropriate and derogatory comments about her age and remarks, relevant to her sex as a woman, relating to his perception or ‘guess’ that she might be menopausal or be experiencing stereotypical menopausal symptoms,” the panel was told. The tribunal found that he did this “even after . . . she had made it quite clear that she did not wish to participate in any such discussion”.

The tribunal heard that Best had also raised concerns about the way that the business and staff were dealing with the Covid pandemic. As an essential business, the company, Embark on Raw, stayed open during lockdown.

Best was sacked for “rude” and “confrontational” communication with co-workers and managers, a decision against which she unsuccessfully appealed. The tribunal ruled, however, that she had actually been sacked for raising her Covid concerns and then victimised for complaining about Fletcher’s behaviour towards her.

She will be awarded damages at a hearing on January 31.