Woman, 55, wins case after boss told her to control her hormones

‘Menopausal’ finance executive, 55, wins discrimination claim after her 29-year-old male boss told her: ‘Calm down.. don’t let the hormones get out of control’ 

  • Louise McCabe, 57, was told by her boss to calm down and control her hormones
  • She has now won an age discrimination case against tech CEO Jack Williams, 29
  • McCabe was fired from Selazar after raising concerns about staff treatment

A female finance executive won an age discrimination claim after her younger male boss told her ‘Calm down.. don’t let the hormones get out of control.’

Digital logistics CEO Jack Williams regarded Louise McCabe, then 55, as ‘a menopausal woman’ and made the remark during a ‘heated exchange’ at a company meeting, an employment tribunal heard.

The 29-year-old boss of Selazar also viewed older people as ‘not familiar’ with the IT business, a judge found.

Williams stripped Mrs McCabe of her role as a company director and eventually fired her after she raised concerns about how staff at the e-commerce firm he founded were being treated.

Mrs McCabe, now 57, is now in line for compensation after successfully suing for age discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The central London tribunal heard that the experienced finance expert, who runs her own Midlands-based accountancy company, was a founding director and shareholder at the firm Selazar in 2014.

Louise McCabe, 57, is now in line for compensation after successfully suing her former boss for age discrimination and unfair dismissal after he told her ‘calm down.. don’t let the hormones get out of control’

CEO of start-up Selazar Jack Williams, 29, was found to view McCabe as ‘a menopausal woman’ who didn’t think old people were familiar with the IT business

The start-up – which has offices in Belfast and Leicester – offers retailers help with their business through AI software and assists with the distribution of goods.

In January 2020 the tribunal was told Mrs McCabe infuriated the company’s Chief Technology Officer – and company co-founder – Gareth Burns when she emailed a customer: ‘I know that talking to techies can get frustrating at times, especially when there is a feeling that they aren’t listening.

‘Their brains are wired differently to us more practically minded people (not that I am as practical as you and they drive me mad at times, so I can only guess at how you feel!!)’.

Mr Burns complained to Mr Williams that the comments were ‘insulting and disrespectful’ and that the email had been a ‘massive slap in the face’, leading Mrs McCabe to formally apologise.

The tribunal heard that in April that year she warned Mr Williams about making unrealistic sales projections to the company’s investors amid a budget that showed the firm losing £500,000 that year.

At an executive meeting the following month, Mr Burns complained about the performance of one of Mrs McCabe’s team and described her department as ‘dysfunctional’ and a ‘shambles’ before calling on her to ‘step up to the mark’.

The finance director was making notes of the meeting, the hearing was told.

‘(She) recorded that she replied that she only had one pair of hands,’ the tribunal heard. ‘She then recorded that Mr Williams said, ‘Calm down.. don’t let the hormones get out of control’.’

Although Mr Williams denied saying this, the tribunal concluded he had, noting that Mrs McCabe said she believed he ‘would not have said this to a younger person’.

After Mrs McCabe raised concerns over how employees at the e-commerce firm were treated, he stripped her of her role as company director and subsequently fired her

Over the next few months, Mrs McCabe raised a series of concerns about the mental health of the team member who Mr Burns had criticised, saying that he had been ‘pushed too hard for someone so young’.

In a ‘position paper’ delivered on July 9, she defended the employee and accused the executive team of denying him a much-needed holiday.

Five days later, the tribunal heard Mr Williams asked permission of one of the firm’s investors to remove her from her role as a director – while she was on holiday.

When she complained about this on her return he told her the company had lost confidence in her, that being a director was a ‘privilege’ and that she was being placed on gardening leave.

Mrs McCabe told the hearing that in August she was phoned by a recruitment consultant who told her ‘in embarrassment’ that he had been instructed by Mr Williams to find ‘a younger team member who was more in tune with a young tech start company’, to look after finances.

The next month she raised a formal grievance about her treatment and claimed she had been targeted for raising concerns about the treatment of staff.

The tribunal heard that an investigation by the firm found that over the summer Mrs McCabe had sent more than 500 emails and documents from the company to her private email address.

In late September she was dismissed for sharing confidential information with one of the company’s investors when she sent him a copy of her grievance.

Concluding that Mrs McCabe had been the victim of age discrimination by Mr Williams Judge Jillian Brown said: ‘On all the evidence, the Tribunal decided that it could conclude that at least part of the reason for (her) dismissal was her age.

‘(Selazar) had asked (the recruitment consultant) to look for a younger person for the finance department; Mr Williams viewed (Mrs McCabe) as an older woman; Mr Williams considered that older people were not familiar with IT businesses.’

Ruling that she had also been unfairly dismissed, the Tribunal concluded that the main reason for her sacking was her raising concerns about the treatment of her team member and her rebuttal of Mr Burns’ criticism of him.

‘The immediate background to Mr Williams’ determination to dismiss (Mrs McCabe) was considerable animosity from Mr Burns towards (her),’ the tribunal found.

‘In executive meetings on Mr Burns had made accusations in trenchant terms about (her) department and about (her team member’s) competence.

‘(Mrs McCabe’s) position paper had disproven Mr Burns’ criticism of (the team member). The position paper had said that (he) had gone off work, sick, due to his treatment by the Company.

‘The Tribunal considered that (her) position paper had made clear that Mr Burns had been responsible for denying (the team member’s) holiday and for the pressure (he) felt that he was under.

‘The Tribunal inferred that the primary reason in Mr Williams’ mind for deciding that (she) would be dismissed was (her) protected disclosures about Mr Ross, contained in her position paper.’

A hearing to determine the level of compensation Mrs McCabe will receive will take place at a later date.

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