The first age discrimination case brought by the Fair Work Ombudsman saw victory before the Federal Circuit Court for an employee dismissed due to his age. Theravanish Investments, an operator of several chain restaurants, was fined $29,150 for contraventions of age discrimination and record-keeping laws.
The case began when an employee of Theravanish Investments, who had begun work with the restaurant chain in 1996, asked for long service leave in 2011. Theravanish Investments director, Nopporn Theravanish asked if the employee planned to retire. The employee responded in the negative and explained that his leave had nothing to do with his retirement. However, Michael Theravanish, another company director, wrote to the employee soon after stating it was “the policy of the company that we do not employ any staff that attains the retirement age, which in your case is 65 years”.
When the matter appeared before court, the court ruled in favour of the employee. Judge Michael Burnett further fined the two company directors $4,180 each and also instructed the company to $10,000 compensation to the employee. FWO Natalie James said discrimination against employees on the grounds of age is unlawful and the outcome of the case serves as a warning to employers that it won’t be tolerated.
This case should highlight to employers the need to look at all circumstances of employment before dismissal. It should emphasis the fact that mere age of an employee should have no bearings or implication on the suitability of an employee for his/her role.
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