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Labour Court overturns WRC’s award of €12,500 for discriminatory dismissal on the age ground

On 12th May 2019 , the Labour Court overturned a decision made by a  Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) adjudicator who granted an employee €12,500 in compensation for discriminatory dismissal on the ground of age.    

Facts

The Claimant commenced employment with the Respondent on 26th November 2014 and was placed on a 6 month probationary period.

On 10th December 2014 the Claimant alleged that the Respondent asked what age he was, he thought he was 39. The Claimant responded that he was 48. The Claimant submitted that Mr. Knowles, the Managing Director of the Respondent then stated, “If I had known your age I would not have hired you, I think Glen is too old to work here we don’t want old people”, while he was sitting beside Mr. Nunkoo, the Respondent’s Chief Goldsmith.

On 12th December the Claimant was called to a meeting where he was told that his probationary period was being reduced to one month and was told that there was other applicants for his job. Mr. Knowles then informed the Claimant that “We don’t want you here anymore”. The Claimant then asked if he was being fired and Mr. Knowles said yes.

Both Mr. Knowles and Mr. Nunkoo in their evidence could not recall the conversation with the Claimant on 10th December 2014 that he alleged happened.

The Respondent stated that there were two contenders for the Claimant’s position, the other unsuccessful candidate was younger than the Claimant . The Respondent also stated that he was aware of the Claimant’s age before hiring him, throughout the interview process, but that it was irrelevant.

The Respondent stated that  Mr Knowles called the Claimant to a meeting on 12th December to address his timekeeping issues, which had not been resolved in a previous meeting on 5th December 2014. The Respondent claimed that the Claimant then became aggressive towards him during that meeting and he sacked him due to his aggressive behaviour in the office.    

Decision  

The Labour Court overturned the Adjudicator’s decision as the Claimant had failed to establish a prima facie case of discriminatory dismissal  on the ground of age. In its  decision the Labour Court cited Section 85A of the Employment Equality Act , which states that where facts are established by the Claimant which may be presumed there has been discrimination it is for the Respondent to prove the contrary.

The case of Southern Health Board v Mitchell [2001] E.L.R. 201 stated that the Claimant must establish the facts which presumed equal treatment did not apply to them.  The Labour Court held  in this case ruled that the Claimant failed to do so.

As there is a clear disagreement regarding the conversation that took place on 10th December 2014. The Claimant submitted that Mr. Nunkoo was sitting beside him at the time yet Mr. Nunkoo had no recollection of the conversation.  

The Labour Court held that no other age incident took place and the Claimant failed to identify a link between his age and his dismissal. As the Claimant failed to establish facts which may presume the principle of equal treatment was not applied to him his claim must fail and the appeal was successful .

The Court held it was satisfied the Claimant was not discriminatorily dismissed on the ground of age, the Respondent’s appeal succeeds and the decision of the Adjudication Officer was  overturned.  

https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2019/may/eda1912.html

29th May 2019

 Anne O’Connell Solicitors

Fitzwilliam Hall, Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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