A bookkeeper who was 'retired' at 66 wins €12,000 for age discrimination

The woman rejected an offer of re-engagement on a two-year contract.

By Gordon Deegan

A BOOKKEEPER WHO was “retired” by her employer on reaching the age of 66 has been awarded €12,000 in an age discrimination case.

In a ruling by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), it was ordered that a family-run retail business pay the sum after ending the woman’s employment.

The award is one of a number of similar rulings made by the WRC where the employer had no employment contract in place to confirm that the employee will retire at a certain age.

In her submission to the WRC, the woman described a number of engagements with her employer between August 2015 and August 2016 from which she was first made to understand that she would retire when she turned 65 – and, in later discussions, on her 66th birthday.

She made it clear that she had no contractual or other agreement that she would retire and that she wished to continue working.

The woman rejected the offer of re-engagement on the basis of a two-year contract because such a contract given to a co-worker on a previous occasion proved to be unreliable.

Submission

In its submission, the employer believed that it had an oral contract with the woman and that an implied term of the woman’s contract of employment was that she would retire at 65.

The business argued that the termination of the employment was effected on the basis of its understanding of this implied term and not on the grounds of age.

The business also pointed out that a pension was created for the complainant in 2004 which clearly foresaw retirement at 65.

The employer stated that it had genuinely believed that such a retirement age was necessary for the management of its business, but it had been willing to offer a fixed-term extension.

In his ruling, adjudication officer Pat Brady found that the termination was discriminatory and that the employer failed to provide any justification of it.

Brady said that, in fact, the only justification offered was the employer’s “somewhat vague, anachronistic and unlawful view” that it had the right to terminate employment at 65 because it was traditional to do so.

Brady said that the employer had held the employee in high regard and there was no element of any reflection on her conduct or competence.

But he added: “This provides no defence whatsoever and is essentially a plea of ‘ignorance of the law’.

“The attitude of bemused indignation that a person might have to be retained in their employment up to an indefinite age gave a good indication of how far such, in fairness widely held views, are off the mark in respect to the law relating to retirement age.”

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