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Being told to ‘grow up’ not ageist, tribunal rules

A casino waitress lost her case for age and race discrimination after being told to 'grow up' after an argument

A casino waitress who was told to ‘grow up’ following an argument and was referred to as ‘the black girl’ has lost her age and race discrimination claims.

Merona Mariotti was employed at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square on a zero-hours contract.

The tribunal heard that in August 2019, she had an argument with another waitress over whether she had picked up a glass. 

In a later conversation about the incident with her supervisor, Mariotti was told to ‘grow up’ and advised not to quarrel with a younger waitress.

The employment judge, Sarah Goodman, said this referred to behaving in a childish fashion and was not age discrimination.

Mariotti, who is Italian and Eritrean, also that claimed when she fell over and injured her wrist on one shift her supervisor shouted "the black girl fell down".

This was not found to be race discrimination, as the judge said the supervisor oversaw 200 staff and likely could not remember her name and used 'black girl' as a way of identifying who needed help. 

Judge Goodman said: “We could see nothing unfavourable about the way the claimant's injury was handled; anyone else's injury occurring in the circumstances would have been handled as it was.”

In November 2019, Mariotti launched a grievance about the way she had been treated.

In October 2020 she was made redundant and then tried to sue the company for age and race discrimination.

Read more: Clubbing for a work party is not age discrimination, tribunal finds

Even though the claims were unsuccessful, Lisa Moore, senior employment solicitor at Harper James Solicitors, said the case highlights the importance of being mindful of language used at work.

She told HR magazine: “Whilst there was no finding of discrimination here, this decision highlights that communications in the workplace can be unintentionally misconstrued. It is possible for even innocent comments by management to be deemed discriminatory.”

She added training managers will help encourage more inclusive language: “The best way to avoid such issues arising is for a diverse culture to be encouraged where staff are treated with respect and communication is open and inclusive.

“It is also essential that management training is provided on equality and diversity along with regular refresher sessions thereafter.

"Not only will training ensure that management have a greater understanding of what forms of language are acceptable in the workplace, but this can also be used as a partial defence to future legal claims.”