Age discrimination – more evidence of the approach of tribunals

The case of Court v Dennis Publishing Limited highlights the kind of factors that a tribunal will take into account when drawing an inference of age discrimination.

Facts

Mr Court, a promotions director aged 55, was informed that he was going to be made redundant following the creation of a centralised creative solutions team. He was informed of the company’s decision at a meeting where he was told that he was not to work out his notice and that Dennis Publishing was not able to offer him alternative work.

Unfair dismissal

The dismissal was automatically unfair as Dennis Publishing failed to follow the statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedure and it was also unfair under the ordinary principles of fairness set out in section 98(4) of the ERA.

Age discrimination

In order to succeed, Mr Court had to show that in dismissing him Dennis Publishing had treated him less favourably than it treated or would have treated other persons on the ground of his age. The correct comparators in his case were the other members of the creative solutions team.

The Tribunal held that there were various factors in the case from which an inference of age discrimination could be drawn including:

  • the philosophy supported by Felix Dennis, owner of Dennis Publishing, in a book entitled ‘How to Get Rich’, that young people were good for business because they could be underpaid for a time before having to be paid market rate;
  • the employees in the creative solutions team were all at least 20 years younger than Mr Court;
  • the person chosen to head the new team was 22 years younger than Mr Court; and
  • notes made by the manager prior to the appeal hearing referred to correcting the assumption that age was the only reason for Mr Court’s dismissal. The Tribunal concluded that this implied that age had indeed been a factor.

There was no explanation unrelated to age to rebut the prima facie case of age discrimination and the employer was unable to offer any explanation for the discriminatory treatment.

Not just old people …

A reminder that age discrimination does not just affect older employees was shown in the recent case of Megan Thomas at the Central London Employment Tribunal.

Megan was fired from the London club, Eight, after being told she was too young to deal with its members. The Tribunal ruled that Megan was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against because of her age.

This tribunal ruling on the application of the age regulations, reminds employers that the regulations protect employees of all ages where the reason for any detrimental treatment relates to their age