Belfast Telegraph

£3k for Northern Ireland man told he was too old for driving job

By Adrian Rutherford

A man told he was too old to apply for a job as a store person and van driver has been awarded £3,000 by an industrial tribunal.

Patrick Matier (63) took an age discrimination case against Spring and Airbrake (Ireland) Ltd, a commercial vehicle parts firm based in Co Antrim.

In February Mr Matier, from Antrim, had called at the company's premises at Nutts Corner after learning of a vacancy.

In his evidence, which the tribunal accepted, Mr Matier recalled that when he was giving his details to a man at the premises he was asked to state his age. When he replied that he was 63, he was told: "I was looking for a younger person who I could train and move upstairs."

Mr Matier asked if there was any point in continuing the conversation, and was told: "No, not really."

He said: "I had been keen to get this job, and to be told I was too old to even apply for it really shook me.

"I had been off work for a while and I was trying to get back in to work. It was disheartening and it made me angry that my application could just be dismissed in this way because of my age."

In its finding, the tribunal acknowledged that the incident "had the effect of significantly discouraging the claimant".

It added: "This had been caused entirely by the behaviour of the respondent and this behaviour was motivated by age discrimination."

Mr Matier's claim was supported by the Equality Commission.

Mary Kitson, senior legal officer at the Equality Commission, said: "This case is an important reminder to all employers not to make generalised assumptions about people on grounds such as age, which are protected by anti-discrimination law.

"It is unlawful under the Employment Equality Age Regulations of 2006 for any employer to discriminate on grounds of age in the arrangements they make when offering employment."

The tribunal in its finding noted that Mr Matier "was, in effect, given no opportunity on the grounds of his age".

Ms Kitson added: "That goes to the heart of the case and it quite rightly caused Mr Matier major disappointment at a time when he was attempting to re-enter the workplace in very trying circumstances.

"No employer should be making assumptions about a person's ability, or suitability for training and promotion, because of their age."

Spring & Airbrake (Ireland) Ltd said it was "extremely disappointed" with the decision and will be applying to have it reviewed.

It said: "This decision sets a very dangerous precedent for any employer defending claims of discrimination, in that the tribunal determined that the claimant was discriminated against, despite ascertaining that the evidence of the claimant was 'a little imprecise and vague'.

"On behalf of the respondents, we will be applying to have this decision formally reviewed.

"We also intend writing to the Department for Communities seeking a review of their recruitment services.

"The respondent followed the approved process for advertising their vacancy with the Jobs and Benefits Office and strictly adhered to the procedure."

The company said the absence of an employment appeal tribunal led to an "imbalance".

It added: "Should a review fail to address the shortcomings of this decision, the only avenue open to the respondent is to refer the matter to the Court of Appeal, which for any company is extremely prohibitive financially."

Belfast Telegraph

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