Manager, 50, loses 'old school' hashtag age discrimination case

Marketing manager, 50, whose hashtag was called ‘old school’ by her younger co-worker at app design company loses her age discrimination case after ‘being sacked for her attitude’

  • Lydia Roganovic, who was 50 at the time, insisted on capital letters in hashtag 
  • Younger co-worker said her idea was ‘old school’ and ‘connotes to shouting’  
  • Tribunal ruled that the remark had nothing to do with Miss Roganovic’s age 
  • She started working for iPlato Healthcare Ltd in October 2018 but was fired in 2019 after managers said they found problems with her performance
  • A decision on her claim of wrongful dismissal will be made at a further hearing

A marketing manager whose hashtag was called ‘old school’ by her younger co-worker has lost her age discrimination case after being fired for her ‘attitude’.    

Lydia Roganovic, who was 50 at the time, insisted on using capital letters in a social media hashtag which a younger co-worker, Linda Okachi, referred to as ‘old school’.

A tribunal ruled that while the term ‘old school’ could be used offensively in relation to someone’s age, in this instance the remark had nothing to do with how old Miss Roganovic was.

Instead it was meant to describe an old-fashioned approach, meaning she was not the victim of discrimination.

Lydia Roganovic, who was 50 at the time, insisted on using capital letters in a social media hashtag which a younger co-worker, Linda Okachi, referred to as ‘old school’. Pictured: Central London employment tribunal in London

The employment tribunal heard that Miss Roganovic was working as a marketing manager for iPlato Healthcare Ltd, in Hammersmith, west London, which creates apps for healthcare companies.

She began working for the business in October 2018 but was eventually let go in 2019 after her managers said they found problems with her performance and attitude.

After her employment was terminated, she launched a claim alleging age discrimination, automatic unfair dismissal and wrongful dismissal.

The central London hearing was told that in January 2019 a new digital marketing manager had just been recruited.

Linda Okachi was line managed by Miss Roganovic and shortly after she joined she was asked to help with a social media post on a campaign raising awareness for cervical cancer.

The tribunal heard that Miss Roganovic was extremely unhappy with an initial template, suggesting that Ms Okachi use the hashtag #SAVE1WOMANSLIFEPERWEEK.

Ms Okachi replied via email, and said: ‘It isn’t good practice to use caps – It’s a bit old school and also connotes to shouting.

A tribunal ruled that while the term ‘old school’ could be used offensively in relation to someone’s age, in this instance the remark had nothing to do with how old Miss Roganovic was

‘Not sure how many people would actually search for the suggested hashtag as it is quite complicated – From my experience, it is too long.’

The tribunal found that Miss Roganovic’s reply to her junior colleagues suggestion was extremely ‘harsh and admonishing’

She wrote: ‘The reason for asking you to utilise the below is that the copy needs to bring out the MAIN POINT OF THE POST and actually shouting about SAVING WOMENS LIVES is something worth doing Linda as I am sure you will agree Linda…

‘I also cannot spend all my time solving these issues for you for every post and tweet it is hugely time-consuming.’

Judge Bernard Hodgson considered in detail the issue of whether calling someone ‘old school’ could be classed as age discrimination.

He said: ‘Old school is a phrase which is in common usage. In general, it appears to refer to trends or practices and it may suggest that they are not cutting- edge.

‘It may suggest that they are old fashioned. It may simply suggest that they are no longer used.

‘It can also suggest approval, especially if the implication is a careful or thorough approach.

‘Old school can be used to refer to practices. It does not necessarily tell you anything about the individual who is adopting the practice.

‘A person who is young may adopt a view or practice which may be described as old school…

‘Many terms can also, in context, be used negatively. It may be possible, at least in theory, to refer to a person as old school, rather than the practice that person adopts.

‘It would also be possible to assume that a person had old school ideas because a person was older.’

Ms Okachi told the tribunal that her comment had nothing to with Miss Roganovic’s age, but was a reference to her outdated practice of using capitals.

Judge Hodgson went on to conclude: ‘To the extent that old school can be seen as a negative comment, we are satisfied that [Miss Okachi] would have used it regardless of age.

‘[She] was challenging the use of capitals which she saw as outmoded and hence the term old school.’

He also concluded that Miss Roganovic was not dismissed because of ‘alleged protected disclosures’ she claimed to have made and therefore her claims of direct age discrimination, whistle blowing and unfair dismissal all failed.

He said that a final decision on her claim of wrongful dismissal would be made at a further hearing.

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