The founder of Belfast’s €23m e-commerce firm Selazar says he will appeal an employment tribunal verdict ruling that he discriminated against a female finance executive on the grounds of ageism.
Jack Williams allegedly told 55-year-old Louise McCabe to “calm down, don’t let the hormones get out of control” after a disagreement at a company meeting.
Although he denies the claim, a London-based tribunal found in Ms McCabe’s favour after she was dismissed from the company, with a judge adding that Mr Williams had regarded Ms McCabe as a “menopausal woman”.
Now running an accountancy firm in the UK, Ms McCabe is in line to receive compensation over the issue.
Speaking exclusively to this week’s Big Tech Show podcast, Mr Williams said he was “disappointed” in the verdict and has lodged an appeal.
“We’re disappointed with the decision of the tribunal,” he said.
“We dispute the claim and the reports of what we said. We are an equal opportunity employer. And we've lodged an appeal against the decision as we feel it needs to be reviewed. Apart from that, there's not much more I can say at this time, as legals are still proceeding.”
Asked whether ageism or sexism is an issue in the tech industry, Mr Williams said that 80pc of Selazar’s senior management are women.
“I can't speak for an industry as a whole, but we employ people of all ages in Selazar. I don't know what other companies’ makeup are made up of. But I can say quite comfortably that that's not an issue here.”
Selazar recently landed the highest venture capital round of any tech firm headquartered in Northern Ireland, raising £20m (€23m) last November. The company facilitates smoother e-commerce logistics for large retail firms. Mr Williams, who has exited two previous tech firms, has been shortlisted for Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year and Young Entrepreneur of the Year at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2022.
In its ruling, the London employment tribunal described an exchange at the company where another male founder, CTO Gareth Burns, had castigated Ms McCabe’s finance department as “dysfunctional” and a “shambles”, adding that Ms McCabe would have to “step up to the mark”.
The tribunal accepted that Ms McCabe’s contemporaneous notes recording the exchange, which included Mr Williams saying “calm down, don’t let the hormones get out of control”, were “broadly accurate”.
It concluded that he had uttered the phrase, acknowledging Ms McCabe’s assertion that Mr Williams “would not have said this to a younger person”.
Mr Williams told the tribunal that a company investigation had discovered that Ms McCabe had emailed over 500 sensitive and confidential emails to her own private email address. However, the tribunal accepted Ms McCabe’s explanation that she was doing this as part of a potential whistleblowing process.
The Big Tech Show interview with Selazar founder Jack Williams is available today on all podcast platforms.