Superdry designer awarded £96,000 in age discrimination claim

·2-min read
A Superdry store in London’s Canary Wharf (Ian Gavan/Getty )
A Superdry store in London’s Canary Wharf (Ian Gavan/Getty )

A knitwear designer for Superdry has been awarded £96,000 in damages after being passed over for promotion because of her age.

Rachel Sunderland, 56, won the case against the high street fashion brand for unfair dismissal and direct discrimation on the grounds of age.

During her time working for the retailer between 2015 and 2020, Sunderland claimed that she was repeatedly rejected for promotion in favour of less experienced colleagues and that she was forced to resign.

A tribunal heard that bosses deemed her to be a low “flight risk” compared with younger members of staff and that she would stay “no matter how she was treated”.

Sunderland, who had more than 30 years experience as a knitwear designer, claimed that the “recruitment, promotion and recognition of other [younger] individuals undermined her standing within Superdry’s design team”.

The designer was told she lacked management experience required for promotion, but highlighted instances when younger staff were promoted to lead design roles, despite having no supervisory or managerial responsibilities.

And in another instance, she was called “scatty” by another staff member, a term which the tribunal found to be “loaded with subjectivity”, and the sort of term that “verges on a term of abuse and which the tribunal would not expect to be used to describe a younger, male colleague”.

Sunderland resigned in September 2020, claiming she had become ill from stress.

The tribunal concluded that Superdry’s actions were because of the claimant’s age.

David Hughes, the tribunal judge, said in his ruling: “We find that the decision makers decided not to promote . . . because they judged that there was little risk of her leaving the business no matter how she was treated. We find that a similarly valuable designer who was significantly younger than [Sunderland] probably would have been promoted.”

According to a 2017 study, almost three-quarters of UK workers say age discrimination is common in the workplace, with both young and older workers feeling most affected.

Over half of workers aged over 55 say they have been discriminated against unfavourably because of their age, while the same number of those aged 18 and under feel they are not taken seriously at work.

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