Menopausal office manager wins £37,000 compensation

Female office manager, 49, wins £37,000 payout after boss dismissed her menopause symptoms as ‘a biddy’ having ‘aches and pains’ and called off-sick staff ‘snowflakes’

  • Karen Farquharson, 49, worked for Jim Clark’s company for the past 27 years
  • She was won a employment tribunal case after Clark discriminated against her 

A female office manager whose boss regarded anyone who called in sick as ‘snowflakes’ has won more than £37,000 in compensation after he told her she used the menopause as an ‘excuse for everything’.

Karen Farquharson was left hysterical after ‘blunt’ talking company founder Jim Clark accused her of ‘strolling in’ when it suited her and said ‘just get on with it’ when she explained she had been off the day before due to the symptoms she was suffering.

Successful businessman Mr Clark – who had a ‘pet hate’ of people not turning up to work – dismissed her ordeal as ‘aches and pains’, an employment tribunal heard.

Mrs Farquharson, who had worked the firm for 27 years since she left school, was so upset at his remarks that she went off sick with stress and eventually resigned from her £38,000 a year job.

Karen Farquharson, 49, worked for Thistle Marine based in Peterhead, Scotland for 27 years since leaving school in 1995. Pictured with her is her husband, Graham

Thistle Marine was founded by Jim Clark who was described in the tribunal as ‘blunt by nature’ often referring to employees off sick as ‘snowflakes’. 

The 49 year old accountant has now successfully sued Mr Clark’s firm for unfair dismissal and harassment and been awarded £37,379.56 in compensation.

The tribunal in Aberdeen heard Mrs Farquharson joined the engineering company Thistle Marine, based in Peterhead, Scotland, in 1995 as office manager.

The firm – which provides services to the oil and fishing industries – had been founded in the late 70s by Mr Clark, 72, and has a turnover of several million pounds a year.

‘Over the years working with the company (Mrs Farquharson) had observed that Jim Clark had an issue with employees taking holidays or being off ill,’ the tribunal heard.

READ MORE: ONE million women quit their jobs over lack of menopause support 

‘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”.’

In August 2021 Mrs Farquharson told her employers that she had the menopause and that she was experiencing a number of ‘serious symptoms’ after which the company paid for her to have a private assessment of her condition.

‘The menopause badly impacted on (her),’ the tribunal heard. By the autumn of 2022 as well as bleeding she was suffering from anxiety, a loss of concentration and brain fog.

In December 2022 Mrs Farquharson – then aged 48 – 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 2pm.

‘She entered the premises and went to her office,’ the tribunal heard. ‘She passed Jim Clark in the corridor. He spoke to her in a sarcastic tone: ‘Oh I see you’ve made it in!’.

‘(Mrs Farquharson) began to explain why she hadn’t been in the office earlier that week. She mentioned the snow and also that the day before she had heavy menopausal bleeding.

‘Mr Clark gave her a disgusted look and then walked away towards the workshop. (Mrs Farquharson) was very upset and angry at his behaviour and the implication that she did not have good reason to have not been at work earlier in the week.’

Confronting him, the office manager said Mr Clark should not treat her the way he did.

‘Jim Clark interrupted and accused (her) of ‘strolling’ in and out of work whenever it pleased her and doing what she pleased,’ the tribunal heard. ‘He also questioned the number of days off she’d taken that year including holidays.

‘He then said ‘menopause, menopause a’biddy fucking get’s it, just get on wi’ it, that’s your excuse for everything’.’

Mrs Farquharson – who is the mother of two girls aged 19 and 21 – was ‘shocked’ by his outburst, the hearing was told. Mrs Farquharson is pictured with her husband, Graham

Mrs Farquharson – who is the mother of two girls aged 19 and 21 – was ‘shocked’ by his outburst, the hearing was told.

‘She told him that he had no understanding of what she was going through and she emphasised that he didn’t understand the discomfort and challenges that she faced particularly when experiencing heavy bleeding,’ the tribunal heard.

‘He once more dismissively mentioned the menopause saying ‘a’biddy has aches and pains’.’

The hearing was told Mrs Farquharson then became ‘even more upset and felt hysterical’.

‘She was emotional, angry and crying,’ the tribunal heard saying she ‘had to get out of here’ and leaving work.

READ MORE: Grandmother, 46, blames menopause for road rage attack 

Mrs Farquharson then wrote to the company launching a grievance complaining of the ‘disdain and disgust’ she had been treated with.

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 the remarks as ‘innocent’ and suggested Mrs Farquharson had engineered the resignation to get money ahead of her marriage.

Upholding her claims of unfair dismissal and harassment, the panel – chaired by Employment 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 Mrs Farquharson violated her dignity, the panel concluded.

‘His intention was not to make some innocent remark, as he suggested, but to make his feelings clear about what he regarded as excessive time spent away from the workplace.

‘This was a pet hate of his and she knew that. She was aware of his dismissive attitude to people he called ‘snowflakes’ who did not turn up to work for whatever reason.

‘Mr Clark must have realised that remarks he made about strolling in, blaming everything on the menopause and trivialising it as only amounting to an ache or pain would have been deeply insulting to her.

‘He was aware that she had encountered difficulties with symptoms of the menopause and was also aware that the company had reimbursed her for a medical assessment.

‘We were left with the strong impression he was spoiling for an opportunity to have a ‘go’ at the claimant.’

‘(Mrs Farquharson) felt a deep senses of betrayal and upset at the way in which she had been treated by Jim Clark and the comments he had made.’

Discussing the ordeal, Mrs Farquharson described her former boss as a ‘dinosaur’ and said she is ‘still struggling’ over what happened.

She said: ‘I just cant get my head around that I had known this company for 27 and a half years and they treated me like rubbish.

‘The stress before the tribunal 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 am very untrusting now. It’s been a huge strain. It was the worst experience of my life.

‘Mr Clarke, I noticed with his age, didn’t like change. He didn’t like being challenged on things and he was a dinosaur.

‘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.’

Now, Mrs Farquharson works in accounts at another company but said she is finding it hard to find her position there because of what happened.

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