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Lecturer sacked for being too loud wins unfair dismissal claim

January 24th 2022

A university lecturer was unfairly dismissed after she was accused of being ‘unnaturally loud’.

Jennifer Cafferky, solicitor in our employment team, reports on this recent case.

The case involved Dr Annette Plaut, who was an experimental physics lecturer at the university of Exeter until she was fired in 2019. She had been at the university since 1990.

Her style involved leading many heated discussions which included expressive gestures, hand movements and some interruptions.

She said that her passionate personality came from her Eastern European Jewish heritage.

Dr Plaut’s manner split opinion among senior members of the university. Some thought that despite being loud and argumentative during discussions, she was not unpleasant and was a valuable asset to the university.

Others didn’t think she should be allowed to get away with her behaviour and regretted that she had done so for so long.

In 2019, Dr Plaut was accused of shouting at a student. She was suspended and given a written warning that acknowledged that Dr Plaut’s loudness was unintentional, but the university was concerned that she was unable to moderate it.

She was dismissed later that year and took legal action against the university.

The Employment Tribunal ruled in her favour. It held that Dr Plaut had been subjected to victimisation and harassment, and the positive things she had done over many years had not been taken into account.

Judge Paul Housego said: “The Tribunal does not doubt that for some people Dr Plaut’s approach to life was highly uncomfortable, but that fails to appreciate that this is a façade behind which the evidence is of a long serving dedicated and caring academic.”

Compensation is set to be decided at a later hearing.

For more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law please contact Jennifer on 01228 516666 or click here to send her an email.

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