Age case studies

Older volunteer

When a volunteer at a charity turned 80 years of age he was told he could no longer work at the organisation because its workplace insurance only covered staff and volunteers up to the age of 80. He complained to the Commission so as to engage the Commission's conciliation process to negotiate with the charity.

During the conciliation process the parties acknowledged the need to balance the risks and financial resources of the not-for-profit organisation with the benefits of highly valued volunteers performing meaningful work in the community. The charity contacted its insurer and was able to extend the workplace insurance to cover all of its volunteers until the age of 85. This change to the policy resolved the complaint and the man was able to immediately return to volunteer work with the organisation.

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Dismissed for not fitting the image

A woman alleged that she was dismissed from employment because of her age. When she was dismissed, the manager advised the woman that the business wanted to portray a certain image, and the woman didn't fit that image. The woman asked whether it was because of her age, and referred to the business recently employing young staff. After a lengthy discussion, the manager allegedly agreed that it was about the woman's age. The manager offered to look for work for the woman in other locations of the business. The woman also alleged that in front of other employees, the manager had said he wanted to make the place bop and employ some young people he knew.

The employer said the woman was dismissed because of work performance issues. During a conciliation conference, the manager said he had discussed wanting to attract young people and clientele to the premises as they had high disposable income. The manager said he did not need young staff to attract young people to the premises, only staff with a young attitude. The manager said that he did tell the woman he would try to arrange work for her in another location. He did not clarify why he would look for work for the woman when her work performance was allegedly not good.

The matter was settled with the employer paying financial compensation to the woman, with a written apology and an undertaking that policies and a complaint procedure would be implemented.

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Casual worker's hours cut in favour of a junior

A young woman alleged that when her hours in her casual job were reduced, she was told it was because she was too old and it cost too much to employ her. She said her co-workers were given some of her hours and that a junior was employed after her hours were reduced. The respondent denied the allegations but agreed to resolve the matter, paying financial compensation.

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Young worker harassed at work

A young man lodged a complaint of sexual harassment and age discrimination whilst he was at work. He worked doing odd jobs and manual work at a car yard. It was alleged that another worker harassed him over a period of 5 months, including verbal abuse of a sexual and threatening nature and physical harassment.

He said that he complained to his manager, but nothing was done about the harassment. He felt that the reason that the worker harassed him was because he was the youngest person at the workplace. He said that he felt anxious and suffered insomnia as a result and now wants to only work by himself.

The worker involved did admit to using vulgar and sexually aggressive language towards the complainant, but said that he was provoked into doing so. He denied some of the allegations made against him.

The employer said that they did investigate the allegations the complainant made, but they found conflicting versions of the events. They had a meeting with the complainant and offered him a position in another department away from perpetrator, but at a lower status and rate of pay. He chose to stay in the same location. They said while they have an employee handbook that covers sexual harassment and discrimination, there was no specific training given to employees.

The complaint resolved with apologies from the worker and the employer, an undertaking that existing policies be reviewed and staff given training about sexual harassment and discrimination and financial compensation.

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Older workers retrenched

Two men alleged that they had been discriminated against because of their age. They alleged that they were both retrenched because they were the oldest employees, both being in their sixties.

The respondent indicated that they interviewed all staff to determine who would be retrenched. They said that they were chosen for redundancies as they had refused to move to more flexible hours and shifts. The complainants refuted allegations that they were unwilling to work different shifts. They also said that other employees had refused to work different hours but had not been retrenched.

The respondents stated that other employees had been inflexible with hours because of their family responsibilities and weren't retrenched for fear of any liability for indirect discrimination from those employees. The matter was resolved with each receiving an amount of compensation.

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Age discrimination - lacking in substance

A woman alleged discrimination on the basis of age. She said she had been interviewed for a position, and was advised that she was unsuccessful because of her age. The company, in a written response to the Commission, denied the woman's claim.

At a conciliation conference the company tendered documentary proof of the age profile of the work force, showing that they had other employees of a similar age. The nature of the work was such that the employer recruited people periodically in batches. In the recruitment process in which the woman was involved, two of the five successful applicants for the positions were women of a similar age and one was an older woman. The company added that the woman had not performed well at the interview and provided documentary proof of her under-performance.

Further investigation by the Commission revealed that the successful women for the positions were of the ages detailed by the company. After viewing the notes taken by the company at the interview, it was found the substantial reason for the woman not gaining the position was not because of her age, but her poor performance at the interview. The complaint was lapsed as lacking in substance.

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Young worker or lack of maturity

The complainant was employed at an early childcare centre as a group leader. A couple of months into her employment the complainant's employer advised her that her contract would not be renewed past her probation period. When she enquired as to the reason, she was told that it was due to her age and that parents had commented that they didn't feel comfortable leaving their child with someone so young. The complainant was 22.

The complainant was provided with a reference and a letter which outlined the reasons why her contract was discontinued. Within this letter it was noted, amongst a number of reasons, that the complainant took too much time off for sickness.

The respondents denied that age was a consideration and argued it was more to do with the complainant's level of maturity. Further the respondents provided information about the complainant's work performance, which included complaints from numerous parents. Impairment discrimination was also denied.

Despite this dispute, the complaint settled for a modest financial compensation for economic loss and an agreement that the organisation would implement a discrimination and sexual harassment policy within the workplace.

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Older worker subjected to inappropriate management practices

A 68 year old man lodged a complaint that he had been discriminated against because of his age at work. He said that his supervisor had made comments about needing to get his eyes checked and that he should go on the pension. The complainant said that his supervisor would yell and scream and accuse him of being too slow at his work. He also said that after slipping and falling at work the store manager accused him of having a blackout.

The respondents acknowledged that the supervisor may have used inappropriate management practices with his staff but that this didn't constitute discrimination. They stated that the remark about his eyes was not related to age. With regard to the "going on a pension" comment, it was said that there had been general discussion about going on the pension and that part of this discussion had been initiated by the complainant. The respondents argued that they had not accused the complainant of having a blackout leading to his fall. Rather they said they had queried whether this was a possible cause as part of the investigation into the accident. Again they stated that this issue was not related to age.

The matter settled for an apology about the way the complaint's grievance had been handled and financial compensation.

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