I came across this interesting case which highlights the importance of avoiding the use of terms which could be considered discriminatory in internal memos.

A London banker was successful in his claim of age discrimination by his former employer, CIBC. Mr Beck was dismissed at the age of 42.

Mr Beck was, on the face of it, made redundant during the credit crisis last year in an effort by the bank to reduce costs. However, an internal memo showed that a new marketing executive should fit a “younger entrepreneurial profile”.

The Bank failed to satisfy the Employment Tribunal that it had used the word “younger” to mean “less experienced”, implying that the candidate should not be an expensive senior figurehead. The Tribunal also heard that the word “younger” was used, despite head of HR advising that this was inappropriate.

I am not sure how the memo came to light in this case but you should always be mindful that if Tribunal proceedings are raised then the Tribunal can order that one or other side must produce documents which are considered to be relevant to the case. Accordingly, care should be taken when sending internal documents such as memos or emails.