The age old problem of discrimination faced by older workers
Published 03 August 2021
You can get a range of employees: there are those who do the job because they have to, others who hate the job, and those who love it, such as Marcia.
Dedicated Marcia had worked as an administrator for her employer for over 35 years and, obviously, she enjoyed her work.
Marcia was planning to finish her working life with the company in the ‘next year or two.’
But as with all the best made plans, things do not always go the way envisaged.
Marcia contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre after she was dismissed for poor performance.
When Marcia discussed her case with our representative it was clear her age was a fundamental factor in the way she had been treated.
Marcia’s problem started when a new owner took over the business and a new male manager was appointed.
The manager had a number of age-related digs at Marcia, some directly to her and others behind her back.
Comments to Marcia included that she was holding her younger colleagues back and he could not teach an old dog new tricks.
The manager did say to one employee that Marcia was too old for him to work with and she should retire and concentrate on knitting.
That workmate sent Marcia a text informing her what had been said and commented how appalled she was by it. There was a subsequent message exchange about the manager’s negative view of Marcia.
The final straw came when the manager made a joke to staff about how long it took Marcia to get to the toilet, which was upstairs in a two-floor Victorian office building with no lift.
When informed of what was said, Marcia immediately raised a grievance against her manager.
The grievance was on grounds of age discrimination and bullying. It was sent to the owner of the business. He handed it back to Marcia’s manager to deal with.
The manager later summoned Marcia to his office to discuss the grievance.
She asked about her right to be accompanied because it was a discussion about her grievance, and was told there was no need to be accompanied.
The manager rubbished the grievance and said the problem was she was too old and slow, which was not his fault.
He then handed Marcia a letter inviting her to a disciplinary hearing with him the following day.
The reason for the hearing was poor performance ‘over a long period of time’. The letter warned dismissal was a possible outcome. Marcia was dismissed.
Our representative submitted a disciplinary appeal on Marcia’s behalf.
Marcia’s desired appeal outcome was to be reinstated and for necessary action to be taken against her manager.
The appeal hearing was chaired by the owner of the business.
Prior to the hearing our representative asked Marcia to detail incidents and treatment she had suffered with dates or rough dates and reference to any evidence or witnesses.
All incidents and comments made to Marcia were not witnessed or evidenced. Those that could be evidenced and those that could not were all presented to paint a picture and show a pattern of unfair age-related treatment by her manager.
Crucial in that evidence was screenshots of the text exchange with the workmate, which showed the manager said Marcia was too old and should retire and concentrate on knitting.
It was straightforward for our representative to highlight the unfavourable treatment of Marcia regarding the terrible handling of her grievance and the unfair process that led to her dismissal.
Our representative argued strongly that Marcia had been unfairly dismissed after decades of loyal and dedicated service, and subjected to age discrimination which is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.
To his credit the owner of the business acknowledged the evidence and concerns raised. He said he would review the case fairly.
Two weeks later Marcia was informed her appeal was successful, and she was reinstated.
Delighted Marcia returned to work to be greeted by a new manager. She worked another 18 months and eventually retired the week before the first lockdown in March 2020.