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Age Discrimination – Objective Justification must be Proved

By March 29, 2023June 26th, 2024No Comments

Age Discrimination – Objective Justification must be Proved

Two recent cases before the Workplace Relations Commission highlight the need for Employers to be able to objectively justify why they are forcing Employees to retire.

In both cases, the applicants brought complaints under the Employment Equality Act 1998 alleging discrimination on the grounds of age and in both cases the complaints were upheld by the Tribunal.

In the first case, the applicant, a Patrick McInerny brought a claim against the Irish Wheelchair Association who sought to force his retirement at the age of 66. In Mr. McInerny’s case, his Employers, the Irish Wheelchair Association, sought to shut down the service from which he had been placed on lay off at the start of the covid pandemic and this decision was notified to him and his colleague in August 2020. His colleague was made redundant but he was required to work until the following year when he reached the age of 66 they sought to retire him. He gave evidence that another colleague at the service was transferred into another role in the organisation. Mr. McInerny said that he was aware that other staff in the organisation had worked into their 70’s.

The adjudicator Mr. Kevin Banehan found that the dismissal was clearly in relation to age and that his Employer had failed to provide any objective justification for ending Mr. McInerny’s employment. He made a direction that the disability charity pay Mr. McInerny the sum of €31,830.00 for the “effects of discrimination”.

In the second case, a Counsellor at the University of Limerick, Michael O’Mahony, who had hoped to work until the age of 70, had his employment terminated at the age of 68. University HR staff told Mr. O’Mahony in September 2019 that he would have to retire within a fortnight as he was over 65 which was the Public Service Retirement age for staff who started before 2004. He said that he had instructed a Solicitor and following this he was allowed to keep working and he expected to be allowed stay until 70 but he then received notice of termination while on certified sick leave in January 2021.

The adjudicating officer Brid Dearing wrote in her decision that it was “well established that the imposition of a mandatory retirement age is discriminatory” and the University offered no evidence that it had been required to do so under the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956 as it is claimed.

The adjudicator found that the complainant was continuing to provide the service in a private capacity and that his forced retirement amounted to a “discriminatory dismissal on grounds of age” and she directed a payment by the University to Mr. O’Mahony of €50,000.00 in compensation.

These cases highlight the importance of any Employer being able to provide objective justification for termination on the grounds of age.

For further information please do not hesitate to contact either Brendan Dillon or Conor Cleary on 01-2960666.