A manager who referred to a colleague as "Good old Nikki" has been cleared of age discrimination after a judge ruled he was simply calling her reliable.

Nikki Payne, who was 54 at the time, claimed that the comment by her boss Lee French was part of a campaign of harassment which included him saying he wanted to employ “an Anne Hathaway character from The Devil Wears Prada” and “not a mum". 

However, an employment tribunal has dismissed her claims of age and sex discrimination made after the company sacked her in December 2019 for "breakdown of trust and confidence". 

The tribunal heard Ms Payne worked for London-based employee benefit company Corinthian Benefits Consulting Limited from February 2018.

She claimed her boss Mr French made a comment in November 2019 that the company was looking for "a young driven person, a bit like the young lads on the client support team, or what I would really like is an Anne Hathaway character from the Devil Wears Prada, not a mum", and gestured dismissively towards her.

The next day she also took exception to an email chain about buying train tickets, which Ms Payne was buying.

Mr French said "Good old Nikki" and she responded "Less of the old". 

Following a disagreement in December 2019 between the pair over whose responsibility it was to make sure there was milk and coffee in the office, Ms Payne made a complaint to her line manager that the company was "sexist, ageist and bullying".

She was then fired due to a "breakdown of trust and confidence". After leaving, Ms Payne sued the company, saying she was discriminated against on grounds of sex and age.

But a judge rejected the claims, saying that the “Good old” comment was not about her age.

Employment Judge Truscott QC said: "The comment ‘Good old Nikki’ was not an act of direct discrimination or harassment. It was not said because of her age and was not related to her age.

"It was clear from the context that Mr French was appreciative of [Ms Payne] being reliable and was praising her for doing a good job. It was indicative of an amicable relationship between them.

"It was not related to her age. It was not reasonable for her to take offence and it is not established that she did."

He also ruled that referring to Devil Wears Prada was not discriminatory towards Ms Payne as "he was describing a candidate with motivation and enthusiasm". 

They also did not believe that he had made the comment about "mums". 

The tribunal, held in London, ruled that the dismissal was not an act of harassment.