Apprentice joiner, 16, wins payout after suing for age discrimination

Apprentice joiner, 16, wins £8,000 payout after he sued his building firm boss for age discrimination when he was told on email ‘you have a lot of maturing up to do’

  • Callum Graham, 16, was offered job as an apprentice joiner at firm MHD Builders
  • Teenager turned down other offers but two months later was still waiting to start
  • He complained after being told they wouldn’t take him on as firm lost a contract 
  • In response to email, his boss Gareth Hynes said he had ‘lot of maturing up to do’

An apprentice joiner won a £8,000 payout after he sued his building firm boss for age discrimination when he was told over email ‘you have a lot of maturing up to do’.

Callum Graham, 16, was offered a job as an apprentice joiner following a successful interview at building firm MHD (Morton Hynes Developments) Builders Ltd in Newcastle.

The post was for two years and included a college day release once a week. He turned down other job offers but two months later was still waiting to start.

Mr Graham was then told that they would not be able to take him on as they had lost a contract.

Callum Graham, 16, won a £8,000 payout at Newcastle Civil and Family Courts and Tribunals Centre (pictured) after he sued his building firm boss for age discrimination

When he got legal advice and emailed his boss, Gareth Hynes, to complain saying he could take the firm to employment tribunal for breach of contract he received a blistering reply.

Mr Hynes told him he had ‘a lot of maturing up to do’, that he had never signed a contract and he would make his name ‘mud’ in the trade.

Employment Judge Seamus Sweeney said: ‘The email is a nasty threat to scupper the Claimant’s opportunities by blackening his name among businesses in the industry in which he sought to work.’

Mr Graham was awarded £7,908 for breach of contract and age discrimination, with Employment Judge Sweeney saying Mr Hynes was influenced by his youth.

He said: ‘I infer he would not make this particular threat to an older person – whether a job applicant or employee.

‘It is clear from the email that Mr Hynes was trying to teach the claimant a bit of a lesson. He has arrogantly taken umbrage that such a young man, looking to start out in his career should send such an email asserting his rights.

‘He threatened to do him damage by undermining him before his attempts to secure an apprenticeship even got off the ground.

‘He treated the claimant less favourably because of his age. In doing so, he subjected him to a detriment.’

Mr Graham, who was represented by his father Mark, applied to MHD Builders Ltd after seeing an advert on a government website.

The post involved four days a week on the premises and one at Newcastle College. After impressing at an interview in June 2019, director Steven Morton asked him to start in August.

Callum accepted verbally and in writing, even turning down other opportunities which came his way as he considered himself loyal to MHD.

He became concerned when they did not get back and eventually called Mr Hynes, who said the college had to set up a health and safety meeting first.

The job involved four days a week on the premises and one at Newcastle College (above). After impressing at an interview in June 2019, director Steven Morton asked him to start in August

Another month went by and he rang Mr Hynes again. On this occasion the boss told him the company was losing a contract and they might not be able to take him on.

He was later informed they had no work and he would be given a reference. He told them he felt he had been mistreated. Mr Hynes replied he was unimportant.

Mr Graham emailed the company on 27 August 2019 after consulting ACAS for advice. A few hours later came Mr Hynes’s furious response.

He wrote: ‘Regarding your threat about the employment tribunal and wanting compensation we wish you the best of luck as there was no contract signed. I have spoken to my solicitor.

‘I have to say you have a really bad attitude problem on the phone and in this email. I genuinely tried to say that we have a company with large workforce and it doesn’t revolve around getting you a job.

‘We haven’t signed any contracts at all or even told you that you have secured a place with us.

‘We are well known in the construction industry around the north east and you will know a lot of the larger companies which we do work with.

‘I will of course have to now inform them of this email with your name and your threat, as I couldn’t now recommend you, which I had offered in the first place.

‘You have become someone that seems to be impossible to even employ by anyone, my personal opinion is you have a lot of maturing up to do and to also work on your attitude towards potential employers.’

Mr Graham said he was ‘shocked, upset’, and that it has affected his confidence by causing him undue worry over his future career prospects.

He was put off pursuing his wish to be a skilled joiner and dejected by Mr Hynes’s aggressive and threatening tone.

The 16-year-old secured part-time employment with a supermarket earning more than £156 a week, which would have been his wage during the two-year apprenticeship.

The judge ruled: ‘On 21 June 2019 an offer was made by Mr Steven Morton for the claimant to start an apprenticeship on the terms already set out in the advert and as described at the interview.

‘Those terms were clear. I conclude that in making the offer Mr Morton intended the MHD to be bound by them.’

The company specialises in new builds and home improvements such as extensions, fitting kitchens and garden landscaping.

It was ordered to pay Mr Graham £5,408 in lost earnings. A further £2,500 was awarded to him for age discrimination for which Mr Hynes and the firm are jointly responsible.

Neither the firm nor Mr Hynes attended the tribunal. 

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