Age Discrimination – latest cases

Age laws and forced retirement at 65

Bosses still ask banned Age questions

Unlawful age discrimination in selection process

Age discrimination set to become most common form of discrimination
Woman, 20, sacked for being too young wins bias case
Number of age discrimination claims estimated to rise to 200 per month

Age discrimination law is in disarray in the wake of a landmark employment tribunal case, legal experts have warned. A tribunal ruled that Kent-based law firm Clarkson Wright and Jakes (CWJ) did not discriminate against Leslie Seldon, a former senior partner, by forcing him to retire at the age of 65.

CWJ accepted that compulsory retirement was an act of less favourable treatment, but denied discrimination on the grounds that it was justified.

The firm argued that it was proportionate to force partners to retire in order to achieve a number of business aims – for example, to aid workforce planning. The tribunal agreed with CWJ, and ruled that it didn’t matter whether those aims had been fulfilled in Seldon’s case. Seldon said he planned to appeal the decision.

Personnel Today 25 January 2008

Bosses still ask banned Age questions

Many bosses are still asking inappropriate questions on application forms and in job interviews, warns the consumer group Which? As a result their companies risk being taken to employment tribunals where they can face unlimited fines.

Which? says there is widespread confusion about what potential employers can ask interview candidates. Previously standard questions about age, length of experience and religious views are now illegal, it points out. The consumer group says candidates facing such queries should politely decline to answer.

According to Which?, the most commonly asked banned question is about whether someone is thinking about starting a family. It says this kind of enquiry is simply unacceptable.

The consumer group argues firms should be focusing on a person’s knowledge and skills, and not making pre-conceived judgements about their age or other personal circumstances.

“Long gone are the bad old days when a nervous interviewee had to answer all sorts of questions about their lifestyle and their personal views,” said Sue Tumelty, author of the Which? CV and Interview Handbook.

“As employers can’t judge a candidate’s ability to do the job on their age, sex or religious views, for example, they’ve no business asking about these things, so interviewees are in no way compelled to answer.

“It helps to be aware of what you can and cannot be asked, so that you can feel confident in – politely – declining to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable,” she added.

Since October 2006 it has been illegal to discriminate against workers under the age of 65 on the grounds of age.
It is against the law to make someone redundant or to bar workers from training or promotion because they are too old – or too young.

Under the legislation, employers cannot specify an ideal age in advertising a job, nor ask for a specific amount of experience. Application forms should not ask for an applicant’s date of birth.

Job candidates who believe their rights have been infringed can take a potential employer to tribunal. Employment tribunals can recommend various remedies and can impose a range of fines, which are unlimited where discrimination is found to have occurred.
BBC News, 14 January 2008

Unlawful age discrimination in selection process

A County Down man has won the first ever case of ageism in Northern Ireland brought under legislation introduced last October.

Terence McCoy from Newtownards brought the case after being turned down for a job of salesman with Belfast timber firm James McGregor and Sons.

An employment tribunal concluded that but for his age Mr McCoy would “more probably than not” have been selected. Mr McCoy, then 58, said he felt as if he had been “flung on the scrapheap”.

“I know that my experience and knowledge of the timber trade made me a strong candidate for one of these posts,” Mr McCoy said. “I was convinced that I was passed over because of my age, and felt as if I had been flung on the scrapheap. “I am very pleased that the tribunal has made this finding which confirms that I was subject to unlawful age discrimination.”

Mr McCoy had applied for one of two salesmen posts with the firm and, after two interviews, was told he was unsuccessful.

The tribunal drew an inference of discrimination from the use in the recruitment advertisement of the phrase “youthful enthusiasm”.

It also concluded that there was a link made between the issue of age and the concept of what has been variously referred to as “enthusiasm”, “motivation” and “drive”.

The tribunal also said that Mr McCoy was asked age-related questions.

Eileen Lavery of the Equality Commission, which supported the tribunal, said the decision highlighted the fact that discrimination on grounds of age was unlawful.

“The tribunal determined that the company, and those involved in the recruitment, took account of Mr McCoy’s age as being a relevant factor in the selection process, and that this constituted unlawful discrimination,” she said.

“This empathises the need for everyone involved in recruitment exercises to guard against making decisions based upon assumptions that the age of applicants might mean they would be less likely to have certain qualities. ”

BBC News, 10 January 2008

Age discrimination set to become most common form of discrimination

Age discrimination is quickly becoming the most common form of discrimination, despite new laws being implemented less than a year ago to prevent it, new research has found.

A survey of just under 2,000 people, commissioned by business information provider Croner, found that 11% of respondents believe they had been discriminated against because of their age. This comes on the back of a recent rise in employment tribunals, which increased by 15% in between the period 2006-2007.

Gillian Dowling, technical consultant at Croner, says: “Despite the massive efforts to ensure all employers were aware of how to comply with age discrimination legislation, this form of prejudice has quickly become one of the more prominent forms of workplace discrimination defined by employment law.

“We’re advising employers to ensure that ‘too young’ or ‘too old’ is no longer a factor in any employment decision-making, such as hiring and firing, and they should also be aware of any unfair treatment of their employees,” Dowling concluded.

Other findings include:

  • Age discrimination is experienced by almost equal numbers of men and women (11% compared with 10%)
  • 73% of respondents have never been the victim of discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability
  • Only 3% of respondents felt they have been discriminated against because of their race or disability
  • Only 2% of employees felt they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or religion or belief.

Personnel Today, 7January 2008

Woman, 20, sacked for being too young wins bias case

A woman who lost her job because managers at an exclusive London club thought she was too young has won her claim for discrimination.

Megan Thomas, 20, claimed that she had been dismissed from her job as a membership secretary at the Eight Member Club because managers told her that at 19 she was not mature enough to deal with members.

Ms Thomas, from Shirley Oaks Village, Surrey, disputed her dismissal and claimed discrimination for being too young, the first case of an employee doing so.

She started her job at the club in April and her contract was terminated at the end of July. Yesterday, a ruling by the Central London employment tribunal ruled that Thomas was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of her age.

The tribunal is set to award her a four-figure sum in compensation for injury to feelings and unpaid notice money, Lawrence Davies of Equal Justice solicitors, who acted for Thomas, said.

He added: “Young workers are vulnerable in the workplace and often get a raw deal in today’s society. This is the first time that the courts have said age discrimination adversely affects the young and young-looking as well as the old.  We would hope that more young workers exercise their employment rights.”

Thomas said after the ruling: “I was upset to lose my job. I had never lost a job before. It was humiliating, especially because I was told I was too young and if they had met me a few years later there may not have been a problem.

Last month, the Employers Forum on Age said that an average of 200 age discrimination claims were lodged with tribunals each month. The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 state that it is unlawful to discriminate against workers under 65 on the grounds of age. Making someone redundant or barring workers from training or promotion because they are too old – or too young – is illegal under the legislation.

The Guardian,13 November 2007

Number of age discrimination claims estimated to rise to 200 per month
The number of age discrimination claims in the UK could “explode” as the new laws enter their second year, the head of the Employers Forum on Age (EFA) has warned.

A year on from the introduction of the legislation, Sam Mercer, Cheif executive of the EFA said predictions of large numbers of claims were now starting to materialise, with estimates of up to 200 per month being filed.

Ageism is a fertile ground for litigation, with about six times as many claims filed in the first year of the laws compared to the impact of the introduction of religious discrimination laws.

Mercer pointed to The Netherlands by way of example, which introduced age discrimination legislation in 2004. “If you look at what happened there, year one was quiet in terms of claims, but year two exploded – and I think that will happen in the UK,” she said.

The increase in cases would create a “juggernaut” where more and more people would feel empowered to claim for age discrimination, she said. “No employer can afford to bury their head in the sand and hope this issue will just go away.”

But research published last week by the EFA found that employers are still not abiding by the rules. Its survey of 1,000 workers revealed 59% claimed to have witnessed ageist behaviour in the workplace during the past 12 months.

Law firm Lovells said the two main demographics of those bringing age discrimination claims were the so-called ‘pale, stale and male’, and the ‘POPOs’ – those who have been ‘passed over and are pissed off’.

A survey of 166 HR directors and managers by outsourcing provider Hy-phen found less than half felt their organisation was achieving high standards of compliance with the age laws.

Personnel Today, 1 October 2007