Exeter University lecturer sacked 'for being too loud' wins £100K payout

An employment tribunal heard Dr Annette Plaut described as a 'Marmite character.'

An Exeter University lecturer who claims she was sacked because of her loud voice has been awarded more than £100,000 by an employment tribunal.

Dr Annette Plaut, 60, alleged a combination of being female and loud led to her dismissal from the University of Exeter's physics department, where she had worked for 30 years.

An employment tribunal was told she was a 'Marmite' character who some found 'overbearing' and did not like her boisterous style.

But Dr Plaut told a hearing she has a "naturally loud voice," which she said comes from her European-Jewish background.

The tribunal said the senior lecturer was the only woman in the physics and astronomy department when she joined the university in October 1990.

The panel said: "Dr Plaut's parents left Germany before the Second World War.

"This was a family experience which Dr Plaut feels deeply. Dr Plaut feels very strongly that her inherent characteristics include a stereotypical loudness and demonstrative and argumentative style of interpersonal discourse.

"Dr Plaut is passionate about physics. While she can try to restrain her natural personality, it tends to emerge when style becomes engaged in discussion about physics.

"Over the years, some colleagues and some students have found this somewhat overbearing, despite Dr Plaut telling students and colleagues that she means nothing by it."

The university claimed Dr Plaut was dismissed over the way she dealt with two students.

The panel said to say she is a 'Marmite' person is not inaccurate. 

The university claimed in the tribunal that she was dismissed over the way she dealt with two PhD students.

And it said Dr Plaut was perceived to shout at students and colleagues, which had nothing to do with her being female or Jewish.

The tribunal ruled she was unfairly dismissed and claims of victimisation and harassment in respect of her suspension in April 2019 succeeded.

They dismissed claims of race and sex discrimination apart from one harassment claim, and she has been awarded just under £101,000.

Dr Plaut told a remedy hearing: "I want to be reinstated."

'Difficult to imagine the depth of humiliation, hurt, stress and worry'

But as for getting another post, she said: "They don't recruit 60-year-olds, they recruit new blood, innovative thinking, thrusting and they are cheap not expensive. I am too boisterous to develop in a laboratory.

"I am 60 and have no intention to retire and draw my pension."

She claimed she was consistently treated unfairly by the university over decades and was targeted for dismissal.

The remedy judgement said it was 'difficult to imagine the depth of humiliation, hurt, stress and worry' for Dr Plaut after she was suspended, adding:"Every aspect of her life and future was at risk, and for no good reason, and unfairly."

A University of Exeter spokesperson said: "We continue to believe there are serious inaccuracies in these judgements and we are appealing the decision of the employment appeals tribunal."