ALSAA sports centre faces €46,000 bill for age discrimination
Posted on 12th September 2022 at 22:39
Second claim made over mandatory retirement age policy
The ALSAA sports centre near Dublin Airport now faces a compensation bill of over €46,000 after losing a second age discrimination claim over its policy of mandatory retirement at 65.
The Workplace Relations Commission has upheld a complaint under the Employment Equality Act by a former receptionist, Mary Gavin, ruling that she was discriminated against by the retirement policy on the grounds of age.
The €18,400 compensation awarded in the latest decision comes on top of a €28,000 award to another long-serving receptionist in a similar case earlier this year.
ALSAA — the Aer Lingus Social Athletic Association — has told the Labour Court in its appeal against the earlier WRC decision that it believes the compensation order in that case is excessive.
Ms Gavin had worked at ALSAA from May 1988 to March 2019 before being told she was to be “compulsorily retired” on the date of her 65th birthday, the employment tribunal was told last month.
Her union representative, Des Courtney of Siptu, said his client was given two more fixed-term one-year contracts before her employment ended in March 2021.
He said it was his client’s case that she was “fit and capable and eager to remain in her role” and that there had been no explanation or objective justification offered by the respondent for treating her differently to other staff.
Mr Courtney submitted further that ALSAA had accepted breaches of the Employment Equality Act in the only other case of compulsory retirement at 65 in the association.
“The facts are clear,” he said. “Prior to her 65th birthday the complainant was informed by the respondent that she would retire compulsorily upon reaching her 65th birthday. She was one of only two employees to be so treated,” Mr Courtney said.
“In the case of the other employee ... the respondent has fully accepted that her treatment constituted a breach of the [Employment Equality] Act,” he said.
Although Ms Gavin had asked to stay on, this had been permitted by using the fixed-term contracts but without an objective justification being provided to the complainant as required by law.
He said there had been no meaningful engagement with Ms Gavin when she looked for a further extension at the end of her second contract.
Mr Courtney said a number of his member’s colleagues had worked past 65, including one cleaner who retired at the age of 74 in 2015.
He added that the CEO of ALSAA, named in the decision as Jim McEvoy, was still working for the association even though he was aged in his 70s.
In February this year ALSAA was ordered to pay Ms Gavin’s colleague Doreen Nolan, also a receptionist, €28,000 for discrimination on the grounds of age and gender, having terminated her employment at 65 in circumstances where other employees were allowed to stay on past that age.
Mr Courtney said his client was disappointed that after “almost 34 years of loyal service” that ALSAA management had not had the “courtesy” to attend the hearing.
The WRC official in charge of the case, adjudicating officer John Harraghy, noted correspondence from the association stating: “[ALSAA] declines the invitation to attend the WRC on 11th August.”
The tribunal heard the decision awarding compensation to Ms Nolan is now being appealed to the Labour Court by ALSAA.
The appeal form was opened to the WRC by Mr Courtney and states: “While we accept the officer’s decision, we feel the quantum award is excessive for a ‘not for profit’ sports club.”
In his decision, Mr Harraghy wrote that the uncontested facts provided by the complainant had raised an inference of discrimination on the ground of age to which ALSAA had failed to offer any rebuttal, and upheld the complaint.
He added that he was required to make an order for compensation which was “effective, dissuasive and proportionate”, and awarded Ms Gavin €18,400 for the effects of discrimination.
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