Think Twice Before Being Nice?

The Employment Tribunal’s decision in Mr F Edreira v Severn Waste Services Limited has sparked public attention. Mr Edreira, a 66-year-old man, alleged that he had faced age discrimination when his manager offered him a chair. The Tribunal found that offering a chair to an older employee could amount to age discrimination.


Felipe Edreira was employed by Severn Waste Services Limited as an Operative at its waste processing site from 4 December 2006 until his dismissal on 23 October 2023. During a shift in June 2022, the Claimant’s manager, Mr Idris Buraimoh, offered him a chair to sit on while working. Mr Edreira declined the offer, noting afterwards that he was the only employee aged over 66 on the shift and the only employee to be offered a chair.

Filipe Edreira brought a claim against his employer for alleged age discrimination and harassment. He believed that the conduct he experienced was aimed at pushing him out of the company upon reaching age 66. He argued that the offer of a chair was unsolicited and used as an attempt to force him to retire. The company contended that it was commonplace to offer support to employees to ensure they were as comfortable as possible while at work, especially considering shifts are 10 hours long.

Although Mr Edreira was the only person over 66 on his shift, there were four other employees over 60, and approximately half of the company’s workforce was over 50. He also cited other instances of behaviour he deemed discriminatory based on age. These included being moved from his usual station to cabins handling heavier materials, while younger employees were not. Additionally, a colleague informed his wife, an employee of the company, that the Operations Director had expressed a preference against employing workers over the age of 66.

The Tribunal heard from the company that before Mr Edreira’s dismissal, he had been on sick leave for 15 months, during which a comprehensive welfare process was undertaken, including referrals to occupational health.

Age is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This means that discriminating against an individual based on their age is unlawful and employers cannot make derogatory age-related remarks or treat individuals unfavourably due to their age.


The Employment Tribunal dismissed Mr Edreira’s age discrimination and harassment claim. Whilst the Tribunal accepted that the conduct was unwanted, the claims failed because they were not age-related. The Tribunal found nothing unpleasant, rude or age-related about how the chair was offered. At the time, the Claimant could not carry out heavy lifting tasks following an operation. Therefore, the Tribunal concluded that the offer of a chair, although unusual, stemmed from genuine concern for the employee’s health rather than his age.

Although his claim was dismissed, the Tribunal did note that offering a chair could be seen as unusual and relocating Mr Edreira to another area showed a lack of awareness. The Tribunal agreed that the move was “unwanted conduct” that could have been discriminatory but ultimately found that these actions did not amount to age discrimination.

Learning Points

This case has sparked discussion surrounding age discrimination within the workplace. Although Mr Edreira’s claim was not upheld, the data shows that age discrimination is prevalent in the UK. The Tribunal’s decision suggests that offering a chair to an older employee but not to younger counterparts may constitute less favourable treatment, contrary to the Equality Act 2010. As a result, employers who offer a chair to an older worker and not their younger peers could be breaching equality laws if the older worker feels they have been treated less favourably.

The decision highlights the importance of respecting individual preferences and avoiding assumptions, as such actions can inadvertently perpetuate the very biases we seek to prevent. The decision highlights the risk of singling a person out based on age and treating them differently, leading to perceptions of unfair treatment and potential legal ramifications.

The Tribunal will employ a degree of reasonableness in these sorts of cases, which is why Mr Edreira’s claim was dismissed. It serves as a clear signal to employers that:

  • Addressing unconscious bias is imperative to prevent discrimination and foster inclusivity in the workplace.
  • Meaningful discussions about discrimination, considering the nuances of each situation, are essential for employers to understand their responsibilities effectively.
  • Implementing anti-discrimination policies and training for colleagues can help employers eradicate age discrimination in the workplace.

How we can help

For further information regarding discrimination in the workplace or to discuss the issues raised within this case, please contact us to speak to a member of our Employment Team.

Darren Smith
Partner, Employment
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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