Success in First European Age Dismissal Case

The Equality Authority welcomes the recent Labour Court decision in favour of a woman who was dismissed by a firm of Solicitors on age grounds. This is the first decision of its kind in Europe and highlights the growing effectiveness of equality legislation in protecting people from ageism in the workplace. The Equality Authority represented the female worker who was told that she was being made redundant because it had been decided to “take on a young girl who could be trained to do her job”. The Court awarded the claimant a sum of £6,000.00 in compensation in its determination EEDO11.

“There is no doubt that this is a significant judgement which once again draws attention to the discriminationary treatment of older workers ” said Equality Authority CEO Niall Crowley. “Ageism often involves a false economy where younger and cheaper workers are brought in to replace older more experienced workers. This exploitation is illegal and involves wastage in not valueing experience and knowledge. There is an obvious cost in this to any profit making enterprise in productivity and customer service. The success of this claim and the award of compensation sends a clear message to dicriminating management that prejudice not only damages productivity, it reduces your experience base and is costly in its remedy” he added.

The Labour Court’s determination states that there was a sharp conflict of evidence between both parties in this case about the nature of the claimant’s employment whether it was temporary or permanent, but the Court decided that this was uneccessary to comment upon as the reason for her dismissal was related to her age. It also noted that the partners in the practice had decided to engage a young person who could be trained to provide quasi-legal services and secretarial services, and that the complainant had never been considered for the position despite her prior experience as both a legal secretary and in undertaking quasi legal functions in relation to conveyancing and probate. Having decided to recruit a new member of staff the firm of Solicitors decided to dispense with the services of the complainant and never considered redeploying the complainant into the redesigned post as an alternative to dismissal. It follows that there is a causal connection between the dismissal of the complainant and her age, concluded the Labour Court determination.

“Age discrimination was third in our caseload list for the year 2000 with issues ranging from access to jobs or promotion to equal pay and dismissal” continued Niall Crowley. “The success of this case should encourage older workers to challenge discrimination and to rely on the present equality legislation in seeking redress. Age related cases made up 10% of our caseload in 2000 and this case, coupled with our successful case against ageist recruitment advertising, is a clear indication of our own committment to tackling ageism in the workplace” he concluded.



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