Seldon v Clarkson, Wright & Jakes (ET/1100275/2007)

The Employment Tribunal held that a provision in a law firm’s partnership agreement requiring a partner (Mr Seldon) to retire at age 65 constituted age discrimination but that the discrimination could be objectively justified as it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 provide that dismissing an employee for reason of retirement is not discriminatory, provided that the correct statutory procedure is followed. However, there is no such exception in the Regulations for the retirement of partners, so requiring a partner to retire at a certain age could be discriminatory unless it could be objectively justified. The partner brought claims of victimisation and direct age discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal considered that the retirement of the partner in this case was objectively justified for a number of reasons including the application of the retirement age to all partners, the fact that the partner had made no attempt to remove the compulsory retirement age when he had the authority to do so earlier in his career, and the need for the firm to be able to offer advancement to solicitors.

The Tribunal considered the question of proportionality. To satisfy the requirement it must be shown that there is no alternative, non-discriminatory way of achieving the partnership’s aims.

The claimant, Seldon, has lodged an appeal against this decision with the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

View the judgment.