Lecturer Awarded £100,000 In Damages After Being 'Fired For Her Loud Voice'
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A university lecturer has won £100,000 in damages after she claimed she was fired for being ‘too loud’.
Dr Annette Plaut was a member of the University of Exeter’s physics department for 29 years before she was swiftly dismissed for her ‘overbearing’ voice.
Dr Plaut described her ‘naturally loud voice’ as a product of her middle-European Jewish background, claiming it was the combination of her being ‘female and loud’ that led to her dismissal.
However, the university have consistently argued she was fired over her inappropriate dealings with two PhD students, which had nothing to do with her background or her sex.
Despite their claims, the employment tribunal recently ruled she had been unfairly dismissed and awarded her a rather large sum in compensation.
The 59-year-old accused the university of being ‘institutionally unconsciously biased’, and said she now takes medication due to the stress brought on by their unfair treatment.
Speaking after yesterday’s win (17 January), Dr Plaut said: “I have a naturally loud voice. As such I have no ability to sense when I am speaking loudly.
“The loud voice comes from my family background and is a perfectly normal and acceptable way to speak amongst people of middle and eastern European Jewish background.
“In New York or Germany where I have lived and worked for years at a time, the loudness of my voice was never mentioned.
“Only in Exeter have I been put under pressure to change this inherent characteristic that is fundamentally integral to me and who I am.
“I believe that it is the combination of being female and loud that some senior members of the university and HR [human resources] persist in condemning, as this contradicts their stereotypical assumptions of how a woman should behave.”
Dr Plaut joined the university in 1990 as the first female academic in the physics department.
The lecturer was twice suspended before being completely dismissed and was told she could not speak to colleagues or students during the ongoing investigation, which reportedly left her feeling humiliated and isolated.
During a tribunal last year, the physicist was described as a ‘Marmite’ character – liked by many but considered ‘overbearing’ by others who disliked her style of teaching.
Dr Plaut has stated that she would have liked her job back.
However, the tribunal concluded it would not be practical considering there was an ‘entrenched bias against Dr Plaut in the human resources department and in the senior echelons of the university’.
Despite this, a University of Exeter spokesperson said: “We continue to believe there are serious inaccuracies in these judgements and we are appealing.”