Plumber awarded £25k after bosses called him 'Half-dead Dave' for being oldest worker


A plumber has been awarded £25,000 by a tribunal after being called ‘half-dead Dave’

A plumber has been awarded £25,000 by a tribunal after being called ‘half-dead Dave’ (Image: GETTY)

David Robson, 69, while employed by Clarke’s Mechanical Ltd, was regularly called by the “derogatory” name by colleagues working on-site in the Isle of Wight. An employment tribunal heard the plumber’s bosses also began using the nickname before he was later made redundant. Mr Robson took Clarke’s to an employment tribunal in Bristol, complaining he had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on grounds of age.

Mr Robson, now 71, lost his job in January 2020 after eight years of service.

He was told at the time he was being made redundant due to a “downturn in workload”, and was the first worker of three to be dismissed.

Mr Robson was awarded £6,300 in redundancy pay, but appealed the decision, asking his company to explain the selection process and questioning whether his age had been a factor.

Clarke’s selected him for redundancy over a points-scoring system which rated him as lower than “some 17 gas engineers/plumbers”.

He received a score of 28, which was low given his experience and expertise, with his score for ‘Performance’ the second-lowest at the firm.

David Robson lost his job in January 2020 after 8 years due to a ‘downturn in workload’

David Robson lost his job in January 2020 after 8 years due to a ‘downturn in workload’ (Image: GETTY)

The tribunal ruled the system was unfair and there was “no justification” for the low scores awarded to Mr Robson, who first qualified as a plumber 55 years ago.

It also ruled his “half-dead” nickname proved his status as the oldest employee at the firm had influenced Clarke’s decision to sack him.

During one incident in 2015, his supervisor Lee Pitman admitted using the nickname when telling another worker, Tom Fox, to take equipment to Mr Robson.

Mr Pitman told the tribunal: “I think I [gave] Tom something to give to him and I said, ‘Give that to Dave’.

“I think Tom hadn’t worked with Dave and he said ‘Who’s Dave?’, and I said Half-dead Dave because that is what I thought they all called him on site.”

The tribunal heard Mr Fox then handed Mr Robson the plumbing fittings saying “here you are, Half-dead”.

Mr Pitman insisted there was “no malice” in his using the nickname and told the tribunal “it was just banter”.

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After an appeal he found out he was given a low score on a points-scoring system

After an appeal he found out he was given a low score on a points-scoring system (Image: GETTY)

Mr Robson told the tribunal: “It was saddening. To me, the most saddening thing was that the term originated from a member of the management. It came from him [Mr Pitman].

“I also had a nickname of Disco Dave but he didn’t use that. When we [came] to the end of all this and my daughter sat me down and said, ‘can we go through everything’, she was upset… You would be.

“To the end of my employment I was regularly referred to as Half-dead Dave. Lee Pitman called me that – he thought it was rather amusing.

“Half-dead, what because I am old? It wasn’t easy to sit and explain to my family.

“I didn’t ask colleagues [to stop using the name]. I just thought, ‘Only a few years left at work, let’s just put up with it’. I didn’t want the distress of it all.”

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Robson told the tribunal he said the nickname was ‘saddening’

Robson told the tribunal he said the nickname was ‘saddening’ (Image: GETTY)

The tribunal ruled Mr Robson had been both discriminated against due to his age and unfairly sacked, and awarded him £24,926.14 in compensation.

Of the total compensation payment, £7,000 was awarded purely for the “name-calling”.

Employment Judge Martha Felicity Street ruled Mr Robson had been discriminated against because of his age ‘plain and simple’.

She said: “[The nickname] caused detriment. Mr Robson put up with it, but he did not like it, he was uncomfortable and saddened and embarrassed.

“In respect of the name-calling, Half-Dead Dave, the majority of the Tribunal award a further £7,000.

The tribunal awarded Robson £24,926.14 in compensation, with £7,000 for the nickname

The tribunal awarded Robson £24,926.14 in compensation, with £7,000 for the nickname (Image: GETTY)

“That reflects the long-standing use of the name and its frankly derogatory reference to his age.

“Mr Robson did not talk up his distress, but it was plain that he was distressed and embarrassed, distressed too when he was compelled to tell his family; it became the more painful on becoming known.

“It affected his confidence, it made him the more anxious for his job, in an environment where that conduct went without comment. He felt dealt with unfairly and felt unable to address it.

“This was discrimination on the grounds of age, plain and simple. Discrimination of any form is not just banter. That is accepted across society at large.”



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