A dry cleaning shop owner has been ordered to pay almost £25,000 to a woman employee he sacked after she brought a successful age discrimination case against him.
An industrial tribunal ruled that the core reason Ufuoma Obahor fired Anna Stirrup from Summers Dry Cleaners in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was because she had made the complaint.
Mrs Stirrup, from the town, was awarded nearly £6,000 last year when another tribunal upheld her claim that Mr Obahor told her that at the age of 50 she was too old to be working five days a week.
Six weeks after that case was heard and three weeks before the ruling was issued, Mr Obahor sacked her, accusing her of gross misconduct.
Mrs Stirrup, now 52, again sought legal recourse and has won a second case against her former employer after the tribunal found that she had been unlawfully victimised and unfairly dismissed.
It ruled that Mr Obahor's claim that he sacked Mrs Stirrup for gross misconduct was "ill-founded" and his reasons were "flimsy, to say the least". The panel concluded she had done "nothing which would justify the ultimate sanction of dismissal".
The ruling stated: "Taking account of the timing of the allegations of misconduct against the claimant, the fact that we believe those allegations were ill-founded ... the actual conduct of the disciplinary proceedings and their outcome, we believe that the core reason for the claimant's dismissal was the fact that she had brought an age discrimination claim against the respondent."
Mrs Stirrup, whose case was supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said she was relieved at the outcome.
"I have worked since I was 17 and this was the first time I had ever been even suspended. I found the entire experience very distressing," she said. "I am really thankful it's at an end and in these two decisions the tribunal have accepted the truthfulness of my evidence and recognised that I have always been a hardworking and conscientious employee."
Mr Obahor said he strongly disagreed with the ruling and intended to appeal. "I vehemently reject the outcome," he said.