An office manager has won a £37,000 payout after her boss told her she used the menopause as an “excuse for everything”.
Karen Farquharson, 49, said she was told to “just get on with it” after being off work ill due to her symptoms.
An employment tribunal heard that Jim Clark, managing director of Thistle Marine, in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, dismissed it as “aches and pains”.
Ms Farquharson was off with stress then resigned from the engineering firm.
She successfully sued the company for unfair dismissal and harassment.
Ms Farquharson had worked for Thistle Marine since 1995 and was earning £38,000 a year before she quit.
She described her 72-year-old boss as a “dinosaur” who didn’t understand changes in the modern workplace.
c said: “I had known this company for 27 years and they treated me like rubbish.
“Mr Clark, didn’t like change. He didn’t like being challenged on things.
“He didn’t move with the times. I tried to explain some issues in what you can say and what you can’t say and it just fell on deaf ears.”
Thistle Marine – which provides services to the oil and fishing industries – was founded by Mr Clark in the late 1970s.
The tribunal in Aberdeen heard that Mr Clark accused Ms Farquharson of “strolling in” when it suited her and had a “pet hate” of people not turning up.
“Mr Jim Clark was blunt by nature. He would speak his mind. Mr Clark would often refer to employees who were off sick as ‘snowflakes’,” it heard.
In August 2021, Ms Farquharson told her employers that she had the menopause and was experiencing a number of “serious symptoms”.
The company paid for her to have a private assessment of her condition.
As well as bleeding she was suffering from anxiety, a loss of concentration and brain fog.
In December 2022, Ms Farquharson worked from home for two days, at first because of heavy snow and then because she was unwell due to “heavy menopausal bleeding”.
The next day she went in, arriving at 14:00 and passed Mr Clark in the corridor. The hearing was told that he spoke to her in a sarcastic tone, saying “Oh, I see you’ve made it in”.
She mentioned the snow and also her heavy menopausal bleeding.
The tribunal heard that Mr Clark gave her a “disgusted look” and then walked away.
Ms Farquharson was upset and angry at the implication that she did not have good reason to have not been at work.
She later confronted him about the issues. The tribunal heard that he dismissed her menopause symptoms saying everybody has “aches and pains”.
Ms Farquharson – a mother of two girls aged 19 and 21 – said she was “shocked” by his outburst.
She then wrote to the company launching a grievance about the “disdain and disgust” that she had faced.
Several days later she discovered her remote access to the company accounts system had been cut off meaning she could no longer work from home.
She resigned and took Thistle Marine to the tribunal.
At the hearing Mr Clark dismissed his remarks as “innocent” and suggested Ms Farquharson had engineered her resignation to get money ahead of her marriage.
Thistle Marine’s lawyers said her evidence could not be relied upon and suggested it was “contradictory and unsatisfactory”.
They disagreed with the words Ms Farquharson attributed to Mr Clark and said he had no intention to harass her.
Violated her dignity
But, upholding her claims, the panel chaired by judge James Hendry said: “Jim Clark can best be described a blunt, self-made man and successful businessman.
“He no doubt has many admirable qualities but empathy for others is not among them.
“It became clear to us that he has little time or respect for those, unlike himself, who are not able to work as hard or without illness as he has.”
His remarks to Ms Farquharson violated her dignity, the panel concluded.
Ms Farquharson, who now works in accounts at another firm, said her treatment and the tribunal was a “huge strain”.
She said: “The stress was unbelievable and I know that I have gone through it and I have won, but I have still got this anxiety and disbelief at what they did.
“I have lost my self belief, I’ve got zero confidence now and I am very untrusting. It was the worst experience of my life.”
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