Receptionist who couldn’t pronounce firm’s name loses employment case

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By Rhys Duncan on


Employed eight days

A law firm receptionist has had her employment claims dismissed after refusing to accept her “own obvious shortcomings,” which included being unable to pronounce the name of the firm.

The law firm receptionist brought a range of disability discrimination and harassment claims against her former firm where she was employed for just over a week.

The claimant, identified only as Miss J. Earle in the public ruling, was contracted to fill a temporary position for up to three months at the law firm Wykeham-Hurford Sheppard & Son.

Having started at the firm on the morning of 15 June 2022, her employment was terminated eight days later on 23 June 2022, on the basis that she “could not perform the role to the required standard”. Earle disagreed, arguing that her contract was terminated because of her disability, which included back, shoulder, and neck pain.

The employment tribunal found Earle to be “less credible” than other witnesses, “at times exaggerating and embellishing her evidence, and adopting positions on certain points which were evidently unreasonable or counterintuitive”.

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At one stage Earle argued that “a few dry leaves” on the floor, which she felt obligated to remove, aggravating her back pain, were “a health and safety hazard, in particular they created a trip and fall risk”. This, the tribunal said, “was an example of Miss Earle’s willingness to exaggerate and embellish her account of events in an attempt to manufacture a weightier claim”.

However, a major issue, according to the ruling, was Earle’s “inability to say the firm’s name when answering the phone to clients”. Whilst the tribunal accepted that the name “is certainly something of a mouthful”, it did not agree that it was a “difficult or unreasonable task” for a receptionist to perform.

The tribunal said: “A new member of staff could have overcome the problem by practice or having the name to hand, in writing, when answering the phone, but for whatever reason Miss Earle was unable answer the phone to the respondent’s satisfaction.”

“It was the manner in which Miss Earle refused to accept her own obvious shortcomings which further undermined her credibility,” it added.

All of Earle’s claims ultimately failed. Firstly, the tribunal said that she did not meet the statutory definition of disability. Even if she had, she had not informed the firm at any stage, and she was not required to perform any work that discriminated against her.


Mr Panzonfyre

I got sacked for pronouncing “Squire Patten Boggs” as “ Square Patterned Bogs”.

Who do I complain to?


The fact you still get it wrong makes it even better


Earle sounds like she should have a career in ambulance chasing. That being said, Wykeham-Hurford Sheppard & Son sounds like a ridiculous name for what is a high street firm


I am surprised they only have 1 son.

Bernard George

When I founded Socrates Training (familiar to many lawyers) we tried using a call-answering service. But they would often pronounce our name to callers as So-Crates.
I guess they had never heard of the Athenian philosopher, Brazilian footballer or Portuguese PM.


Don’t think “many” lawyers have heard of it tbh


Really? When I was running it we had roughly 1,000 firms subscribed and about 30,000 individual users.
And anyone who followed current events heard of our heroic win against the Law Society in the Competition Tribunal in 2017.


I find it appalling that the general level of education nowadays is so very low.


Newsflash/ that word is pronounced so-crates
I guess you’ve never seen Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure.

Dave Mills

I’ve only heard of the philosopher… but thought he was called So-crates.


They had probably seen Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure

Ex Asshurts

Doesn’t beat my role at Asshurts!


Or (deep) Fried Frank!


I once followed a lorry on the A1 with the names Sharps Ships Stores Ltd on the back of it and speculated how their receptionist coped.


May be 3s store Ltd😂


During Covid I always hoped that when the BBC anchor transferred over to Chris Ship to report on the daily updates from Chris Witty, that they would slip up.


Mass O’Chist

Oh! I finally guessed it!

You were hoping that the BBC would say “Chris Shitty” by accident!

Just like when the appropriately named Jim Naughtie referred to “the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt” as “the Hulture Secretary Jeremy Cunt” live on Radio 4.

I lol’d very loudly that day!

James Taylor

Fleecem and Legit


Norfolk & Chance


Norfylk & Waye try that one up to 500 calls a day…. 😀


I can’t pronounce this name too. Although the tribunal came to a different conclusion.

The firm failed to do a good induction in this case. They do not appear to have tried to help her settle in. They merely condemned her for her shortcomings, and were intent on getting rid of her.

Poor lady.


She should have used the law firm Sue Grabbit & Runn


Or how about the magic tricks outfit “ cunning stunts “‘


How did this case get hear with just 1 week employment?!


How did this case get heard with just 1 week employment?!


It’s an exception to the 2 year rule as disability is a protected characteristic.

Dave Frank

Not like the guys who had the new receptionist on by getting a friend to go and ask her to page an employee called Mike Hunt, who didn’t exist. She repeated it several times asking “Could Mike Hunt please come to reception, please” poor girl was very embarresed on realising what they had done. Probably a sackable offence these days.


She would not have wanted to work at Siemens branch in Staines Middlesex then


Firstly, I’m intrigued how Ms Earle secured the job in the first place.

Anyone who has experience in Reception or switchboard work knows that those interviewing will test you on your competence in customer service, that includes their required standard of the English language, written & verbally!
Especially when a high volume of telephone calls is a major part of the job description or those in charge of interviewing might ask the candidate to show their competence in the role,

“Can you give us an example of your telephone voice and this is how we would like you to answer all calls.”

Your handed a sheet with their requirement and you put on your best telephone voice.

If you want the job, you sell yourself. Normally you take in the level required when you turned up at the interview by the receptionist already on duty or you may even be asked to actually trial the position, especially if the company has a high call count.

So this candidate obviously did well in their interview?

I wonder what became of the person(s) who ran the interview and made the decision in offering employment, surely they were following the companies hiring requirements. Aldi you have a 5 stage process to just secure a face to face interview. A city law firm you would think they would have their own system but yet there was no mention of their own training if they felt the candidate had potential or that the candidate wasn’t willing to expand?

So did the law firm own hiring process fail?

Also, was the candidate from an employment agency specialising in administration/clerical & reception staff, surely feedback to the agency regarding candidate sent wasn’t to the spec they required.

I’m intrigued what the lady was put through in her first week, I’m intrigued how the person in the position now is fairing with the repetitive mouthful.

As this is marked up as “own obvious shortcomings,”

So many questions….


Does this pre-employment check include knowing the difference between ’your’ and ’you’re’? The self righteous blurb above contains many grammatical and punctuation errors! Look at yourself before criticising others!


I liked the pre -interview selection mentioned in the comments .lots to 💬.

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