Age discrimination has often been seen as a one-way street, both in the courts and in the media. You would be forgiven for believing that age discrimination only occurs when an employer discriminates against an older worker on account of their age. However, age discrimination can certainly ‘work’ both ways, as recently illustrated by the case of Osborne and another v Gondhia and others t/a Rutaba Partnership, which demonstrates that there is an increased recognition of age discrimination against younger workers.
The applicants in this case were two sisters, aged 18 and 21, who resigned from their job at a service station. It was held by the Employment Tribunal that they were discriminated against by their employer because of their age.
The sisters alleged that they had been “berated aggressively” by their employer for mistakes that had actually been made by other employees and had been subject to aggression because of trivial issues, such as a single sheet of paper coming loose in a ring binder. It was held that the sisters were “not treated with the respect they deserved as employees” and that the employer would not have treated them the same way if they were older.
Although the facts of the case suggest that the discrimination was blatant, this decision could have wider implications for employers. If younger employees feel they are being treated poorly because they are less experienced than their colleagues, their employer may be held liable.