Unfairly dismissed you have been – Yoda, age discrimination and redundancy
When managing older employees, it is important to keep in mind the risk of age discrimination claims. This is illustrated by Nolan v CD Bramall Dealership Limited, a recent case where a senior employee successfully argued that he had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against. Notably, the ET took workplace banter into account when reaching its decision.
CD Bramall (CDB) employed Mr Nolan as a service team leader. He was due to retire in January 2013 when he reached the age of 65. In February 2012, however, Mr Nolan was made redundant after being placed in a pool of one. He argued that his dismissal was unfair and discriminatory, on the basis that CDB should also have placed a younger colleague in the pool.
The Employment Tribunal upheld both of Mr Nolan’s claims. In doing so, it concluded that the following factors indicated age-related bias within CDB:
- Mr Heeley, the dealer principal, stated he had no problem with age-related banter provided “everyone is getting on”;
- Mr Heeley once introduced Mr Nolan as a “104 year old service team leader”;
- staff carried out various age-related pranks, such as altering Mr Nolan’s number plate from “OAB” to “OAP”; and
- Mr Nolan was dubbed Yoda, who the ET described as “a small wizened character in Star Wars who is several hundred years old”.
This case is a reminder of the risk of age discrimination claims, and in particular how seemingly-friendly banter can cause a problem once proceedings are raised. Workplace policies should make it clear that discriminatory banter, even if it is well-intentioned, can cause offence and should be avoided.
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