This case highlights the factors that a tribunal will consider when deciding whether to draw an inference of age discrimination.

Facts: Mr Court was employed as Promotions Director by Dennis Publishing Limited (DP Limited). He was responsible for creative solutions, a form of advertising within the Motoring Division. Five other staff also provided creative solutions although they worked in another department. A decision was taken to consolidate the creative solutions team and Mr Court was subsequently selected for redundancy. He was 55 years old at the time.

Mr Court brought a claim of age discrimination and unfair dismissal. The Tribunal upheld Mr Court’s claims. In particular, it found that the employer did not have any good explanation as to why Mr Court was selected for redundancy. Further, there were a number of factors from which an inference of age discrimination could be drawn:

1. The owner of DP Limited, Mr Dennis, had written a book entitled How To Get Rich. In this book he promotes the idea that young people are good for business because their talent is not as expensive as that of senior employees. The Tribunal found that his philosophy had infected the culture within the company.

2. The failure to consider for redundancy any other employees, who all happened to be at least 20 years younger than Mr Court.

3. The employee who was recruited to head the new team was 22 years younger than Mr Court

4. Notes made by a manager prior to the appeal hearing referred to correcting the assumption that age was the only factor for Mr Court’s dismissal. In the Tribunal’s opinion this implied that age had at least been a factor.

As usual, evidence of direct discrimination is rare. Therefore the ability of the Tribunal to draw an inference is often decisive. This case reinforces the importance for employers to have a clear explanation as to how it arrives at its decisions.

Although having a predominantly young workforce will not in itself lead to a finding of age discrimination, employers should be wary of promoting a “young” culture and be careful to have a transparent basis for redundancy selection, not linked to age.