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"Old buffer" forced to dress as Santa wins unfair dismissal pay-out

By Kate Ferguson

A middle-aged accountant who claimed he was branded an "old buffer" and forced to dress up as Father Christmas is in line for a pay-out after winning his unfair dismissal claim.

Accounts manager James McClellan, 53, claimed he was sidelined and forced out of his job in the payroll department at publishing giant Dow Jones.

The father-of-three from Maidstone in Kent, claims he was painted as a "misogynist" and told by his manager Azmina Airi that he underestimated "the girls".

He told Central London Employment Tribunal Ms Airi had branded him "rigid and stuck in my ways" at their first meeting after she was appointed in October 2013.

He said he was "flummoxed" at the "offensive" comments and felt he had been type-cast as a sexist middle-aged man.

As a result he resigned in February last year.

Today the employment tribunal panel found that Mr McClellan, who earned £72,000-a-year, had been constructively and unfairly dismissed.

But they said that while he may have been "hurt" by being approached to be Santa, they did not find him to be the victim of sexist or ageist discrimination. The judge, Ms Tamara Lewis, said: "Ms Airi did say the claimant is rigid and stuck in his ways and that is a stereotype that can be said of older people.

"But it can be said of younger people too so you have to look at the context.

"Regarding the secret Santa, we don't think it was an instruction we think it was a request."

But they found that Mr McClellan had been the victim of constructive dismissal and that this amounted to unfair dismissal.

The judge said: "He resigned because of Ms Airi's view of him, and also she undermined his position with his team, and because she gave him a verbal warning. The way she did that we find was a breach of trust."

She said Ms Airi "had swiftly reached a preconceived view that he was resistant to change" and "managed the situation badly".

And she breached employment guidelines by giving Mr McClellan a verbal warning without going through a formal disciplinary procedure.

The judge also criticised the "astonishing lack of a disciplinary process" at Dow Jones.

Dow Jones and Mr McClellan reached a financial settlement in private and declined to say what this amounted to.

They both also declined to comment on the judgment.

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