Woman claims her sacking was racist because her German heritage makes her ‘inherently noisy’

A senior academic who claims she was fired for racist criticism of her “natural voice” and passionate teaching style has won a lawsuit for unfair dismissal.

Dr. Annette Plaut, who worked as a physicist at University of Exeter for three decades, unjustly fired, a labor court find.

The instructor admits she is “inherently loud”, “naturally argumentative” in conversation, speaks with strong hand gestures and is very passionate physics She couldn’t help but burst out in excitement.

She was described as a “Marmite character” during the hearing.

But while many students and colleagues liked the University of Exeter’s teaching style, some colleagues found her “bossy” and “very annoying,” the hearing was told.

Plaut’s senior management team “decided that Dr Plaut could not be tolerated any longer”, subjecting her to disciplinary investigation for alleging that she had “screamed” at a PhD student and then used it as an “excuse”. to fire her, the board concluded.

The experimental physics lecturer – a graphene expert who is the first female in her department – is currently being compensated after successfully suing the university for victimization, harassment and unfair dismissal.

In court in Exeter, Dr Plaut asserted her Eastern European Jewish heritage meant that she had an “inherent characterization of loud noises and a conversational style that included a style of argument involving disruption.” paragraphs and movements of the hands a lot”.

The scientist, whose parents moved from Germany before World War II, joined the school’s physics and astronomy department in 1990.

She insists there’s “nothing can be done” as she gets excited and her body language becomes expressive.

“Dr. Plaut is passionate about physics,” the court said. “While she may be trying to rein in her natural personality, it tends to come up when she’s engaged in discussion about physics.

“She tells her students what kind of person she is, and they shouldn’t be offended.

“Over the years, some colleagues and some students have found this to be a bit overbearing, even though Dr. Plaut has told students and colleagues that she means nothing.

“Some senior members of the department have taken the view that Dr. Plaut has been allowed to renounce behavior that has been truly unacceptable for many years.

“Others appreciate her contribution, and accept that she is not a nasty person even when loudly arguing in discussion.

Dr. Plaut says that any negativity towards her due to her interpersonal communication style is unconsciously racist because it stems directly from her inherent cultural upbringing. she.

“She found it particularly insulting to suggest that she was shouting loudly and found it a great insult to apply the word to her.

To sum up the great weight of evidence provided to us, the native phrase ‘she is a Marmite’ is not incorrect. “

The hearing was told that in 2017 the university’s human resources department engaged with Dr. Plaut’s teaching style and that she worked with staff to agree on wording to describe it. for students.

Dr Plaut took offense at being called “unusually large” and insisted on being called “naturally large”.

By this point, the jury was out with the department, and “over time, the human resources department became less and less tolerant of Dr. Plaut.”

The jury was told that in January 2019 she was suspended for serious misconduct for her “significantly exaggerated” claim that she shouted at a schoolgirl and flashed a “laser beam”. ” into their eyes.

Dr. Plaut claims she has explained the scientific concept of saturation and has demonstrated it by shining a desk lamp in a student’s face. However, she apologized for the incident.

In a written warning letter to her, the university “accepts that Dr. Plaut’s outbursts were largely unintentional, but expressed concern about her apparent inability to restrain herself.” it”.

At a return to work meeting in April that year, the board heard her relationship with the university’s senior management deteriorated when she suggested one of her bosses was not open. with criticism in his role as equal head.

The court notified bosses to “seize” the comment to bring further disciplinary action against her, even though the academic board did not want it pursued.

Plaut’s other student told the university he wanted to change faculty, his bosses lied to him that he could only do so if he complained about she.

It led to Dr Plaut facing a new charge of “regularly shouting in meetings with a PhD student causing them stress and anxiety”.

The court found that senior management including Janice Kay, the university’s superintendent, wanted Dr. Plaut to be removed.

“It’s clear that (all of them) want Dr. Plaut to be sacked and put that on the train,” the report said.

The physicist was suspended again and fired after a disciplinary hearing in December 2019.

Finding the university guilty of harassment, victimization and unfair dismissal, Paul Housego, the hiring judge, criticized the treatment of such a long-standing scholar.

“This is a very large institution, with a very high reputation and high professional standards in dealing with the professional problems of academia,” he said.

“This obligation is even greater when dealing with someone who has spent 30 years working for them. Senior management has decided that Dr. Plaut will not be tolerated any longer.

“The good things she has done over the years have no weight.

“The court has no doubt, but to some, Dr Plaut’s approach to life was irritating, but that fails to judge that this is a facade behind which is evidence of a past. long service and dedication to learning.”

Judge Housego suggested one way to deal with Dr. Plaut’s perceived screams was to get help and have the opportunity to change her approach.

Dr Plaut – whose additional claims of racism and sexism were dismissed by the panel – will now be compensated at a later date.

A spokesperson for the University of Exeter said: “We believe there are inaccuracies in this Judgment and will appeal the decision to the Employment Appeals Court.” Woman claims her sacking was racist because her German heritage makes her ‘inherently noisy’


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