Equality Authority Wins Age Discrimination Advertisement Case against Ryanair

The Equality Authority has been awarded £8,000 as compensation for the effects of discrimination under Section 6 (1) and 6 (2)f of the Employment Equality Act 1998, when an Equality Officer found that Ryanair discriminated on grounds of age in a job advertisement for a Director of Regulatory Affairs stating “we need a young and dynamic professional…” “And that the ideal candidate will be young and dynamic”. The Advertisement was published in the Irish Times on February 25th 2000.

The Equality Authority took the case in its own right on the grounds that the advertisement contravened the protection from discrimination provided for, on the age ground, in the Employment Equality Act 1998.

The Equality Officer found that people who are middle aged or old were excluded from qualification for the position and that this amounted to discrimination. In addition to the compensation awarded Ryanair were ordered to take a specific course of action including a comprehensive review of its equal opportunities policies to ensure that the policies are fully compliant with equality legislation, equality proofing of recruitment and selection guidelines and the publication of a statement of equal size and prominence to the offending advertisement, making a clear commitment to equal opportunities.

The Equality Authority wrote to Ryanair outlining its concerns about the use of the word young on March 8th 2000. Ryanair stated that “young” was a state of mind and not a factual age. The Authority in finding this interpretation unsatisfactory, then proceeded with their complaint through the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations.

“This important judgement, the first of its kind on the age ground, focusses attention on the almost casual and accepted discrimination experienced by older people in the workplace”, stated Niall Crowley, CEO, Equality Authority in welcoming the decision.

“Age discrimination in Ireland is based on widely held stereotypes that your age determines your capacity. This stereotype needs to be exposed for the myth this is. Any measures such as the inclusion of “young” in job advertisements as a qualification will not be accepted by the Authority and we will use the full force of the Employment Equality Act to seek redress for those who are discriminated by the use of such spurious criteria as essential for employment. The fact that they are published prominently in a national newspaper simply adds to the stereotyping of a very wide range of diverse, talented and qualified people essential to our economic suceess and social well-being”.

“The role of equality legislation in challenging this stereotype, and the contribution to be made to a greater and more equal participation in the workplace, is of crucial business sense in an era when more older people than ever are being encouraged to participate, and to return to the workplace, by companies who wish to have a competitive edge in the recruitment area.

“Ageism contributes to the expensive loss of expertise built up by older people, when prejudice pushes people out of their productive roles needlessly and prematurely. Age discrimination can also disadvantage young people from entering or advancing in the workplace.”, continued Mr Crowley.

“This award is a significant outcome of the use of the Equality Authority power to take a discrimination case on any of the nine grounds protected by our legislation. We offered an opportunity to Ryanair to redress this discrimination in the immediate aftermath of the publication of the offending advertisement and found their response that “young” is a state of mind rather than an age, inadequate so we proceeded and have been successful in our case”, he added.

“It is important to stress that we will be donating the award of £8,000 to an organisation working to combat ageism. Our role is to combat discrimination rather than to pursue individual companies. This significant case is a benchmark for all those who seek to discriminate on grounds of age. It is unlawful, expensive and is excluding a very large section of our highly qualified workforce – a luxury few competitive employers can afford in these days of labour market shortages”, concluded Mr Crowley.