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Employer defends discrimination claim brought by 73-year-old

Posted: 22nd December 2015   In: Business Employment

An employer has defended an age discrimination claim brought by a 73-year-old woman who had been widely regarded as outstanding in her field.

The case involved a woman who had specialised in the area of medical underwriting in the insurance business since 1968, becoming Chief Medical Officer for her company.

Her main employment ended in 1992 but she continued to work under a consultancy agreement.

In 2010, when she was 73 years old, the company’s managing director and its director of claims management services identified deficiencies in her performance. They presented their findings to the company’s general manager, who decided to terminate the consultancy agreement.

The woman took legal action claiming that the decision to end the agreement was based on her age and was therefore unlawful.

The Employment Tribunal found that because the woman’s previous performance had been highly regarded and the employer had not asked her to amend or improve her work, there was a prima facie case that her age may have been one of the reasons for her being dismissed.

However, the tribunal then focused on the general manager and his thought processes in deciding to terminate the consultancy. It concluded that the principle reason was unrelated to age. The manager had been dissatisfied with the woman’s performance and genuinely believed that she would not be able to adapt to current practices.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the tribunal’s decision. It held that the company could only have been held liable for the manager’s decision to terminate the consultancy if that decision had been influenced by discriminatory reasons related to age. That had not been the case so the claim of age discrimination had to fail.

Please contact John Carter if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.