A former employee challenged the decision to terminate her employment, filing complaints under the Employment Equality Acts and the Terms of Employment (Information) Act.
The complainant had been employed as a book keeper for just over twelve years and was dismissed upon reaching 66 years of age. It was understood through correspondence with her employer that she would retire after her 65th birthday, although further correspondence pushed the complainant’s understood retirement age to 66.
It was made clear that the complainant had no form of contractual agreement but wished to continue working. She was offered a supplementary two-year contract following retirement but declined this offer; as such a contract had been used in the past and had not proved reliable.
It was submitted that the complainant had not been given a contract or the obligatory written terms of employment; there were also no customs in place that would infer a retirement age. It was therefore submitted that mandatory retirement on the basis of age was unabashed discrimination.
The respondent company is a family-operated business with very few employees. Due to the nature of the operation, the respondent company had made the assumption that an oral contract with the complainant was sufficient, and that the retirement age had been established in conversation. The respondent believed that the complainant’s retirement age had been confirmed upon the creation of her pension, which inferred she would not be working past 65.
The respondent company had made efforts to introduce contracts of employment in the past, but this idea had been met with resistance and was therefore dropped. It was submitted that the respondent company had genuinely believed the mandatory retirement age was necessary for business progression.
The respondent’s assumption was found to be ‘vague, anachronistic and unlawful’ and was essentially just a plea of ignorance to the law.
The complainant was awarded €12,000 for the breach of her rights under the Employment Equality Acts, and a further €630 in compensation for her claim under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act.