Leigh Best was working at pet food company Embark on Raw, where her boss allegedly shouted insulting comments to her throughout the store – references to which she later took to employment court
Photo: Solent News & Photo Agency)
A middle-aged woman has won more than £20,000 after her male boss is said to have yelled and said she ‘must be in her’ menopause ‘ at work.
The incident happened at Essex-based pet food company Embark on Raw, where Leigh Best, then 52, was employed as a sales assistant, a recruitment panel has said.
Best, now 54, has gone on to start his own company – RawKings, which sells premium dog and cat food.
Speaking to The Mirror, Best said she was “very happy” with the outcome, and that starting her own company was the best thing that ever happened to her.
The controversy began in March 2020, when Best had a small argument with boss David Fletcher about shuffling orders.
This led to Mr. Fletcher shouting throughout the workplace that Best had to be in menopause.
One job court heard that Mr Fletcher “made inappropriate and derogatory remarks about her age and remarks, regarding her gender as a woman, in relation to his perception of him.” or ‘guess’ that she might be menopausal or experiencing stereotypical menopause symptoms”.
Solent News & Photo Agency)
The court found he did this even after Best made it clear she didn’t want to talk about it.
One business day, a customer described having hot flashes, and Best put his hand over his ears and said, “I don’t even want to hear about it… I don’t want to know.”
But once the client left, Fletcher “continued to pursue the subject” and this had the effect of “creating a humiliating environment for her.” [Best] at work”, the court heard.
Best then complained to Fletcher’s wife Andrea about what her husband had said.
But Mrs Fletcher sided with her husband, telling Best: “You have to stop whining and you have to talk to people respectfully … you have to stop trying to blame people … you are so fast quick to tell people when they’re doing something wrong…you have to mingle with people or we’ll have to call it a day”.
In the wake of the menopause controversy, Best has raised concerns about how Embark on Raw is dealing with the Covid pandemic.
Embark on Raw is classified as essential business, so remains open during the lockdown.
The panel heard Best was ‘deeply concerned’ and felt that neither management nor staff had consistently followed government rules.
After one of her colleagues started coughing while not wearing a mask, Best went to Mrs. Fletcher with her concerns.
But it was thought she was “paranoid”.
In May 2020, Raw fired Best for ‘rude’ and ‘confrontational’ communication with co-workers and managers – a decision she unsuccessfully appealed.
However, the court ruled that she was actually fired for raising her concerns with Covid and then fell victim to complaining about Mr Fletcher’s behavior towards her.
The court, led by Employment Judge Bernice Elgot, said: “Mr Fletcher invaded the claimant’s privacy, brought up a sensitive subject for her and acted wisely by asking directly. contact her, as an employee with protected sexual characteristics as a woman, even if she is postmenopausal.
“He asked that question even after…she made it clear that she didn’t want to be involved in any such discussion.
“We are pleased that part of the reason the company decided to fire Ms. Best was that she made substantial allegations of sex and age discrimination against Mr. David Fletcher.”
Regarding Covid concerns, the council said she had disclosed ‘information’ that was also in the ‘public interest’.
“She stepped in to protect herself, her family, close friends and her contacts, customers and suppliers. [the Fletcher’s] the court said.
The court ordered Embark on Raw to pay Best £20,57.74 in damages.
Speaking to The Mirror, Best said: “I’m very happy with the result. It opens up a whole new world, it’s a world I never dreamed of.
“I’m glad I gave myself the opportunity to start my own company. At 52, I didn’t have it in my plans to start my own business. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Handshake on Raw has been approached for comment.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/woman-54-wins-20000-payout-26286594 Woman, 54, wins £20,000 payout after boss insults her with menopause comments