Salad bar worker awarded €10,000 for age discrimination

Workplace Relations Commission finds 22-year-old’s ‘young age’ was ‘one of the reasons’ cited when complainant was dismissed

A worker who said she was told she was “very young” and not ready to manage a salad bar at the age of 22 has won €10,000 for ageist discrimination.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) made the award to Hannah Murphy on foot of a complaint under the Employment Equality Act against Freshly Chopped Ltd, in a decision published on Wednesday.

Ms Murphy spent just under two weeks working for the chain at its salad bar in Fairview, Dublin 3, in December 2020, training to take up a post as manager of its branch in Swords, in the north of the county, the tribunal heard.

The company had denied the claim and insisted Ms Murphy had failed her probation.


Giving evidence to a hearing in July 2022, the worker said she thought “all was well” towards the end of her fortnight of training, as the area manager had arranged for her to meet her new team and asked for her uniform sizes.

The area manager had spoken to her a number of times during her training and expressed no “dissatisfaction” with her performance, Ms Murphy added in her complaint.

Her evidence was that on Sunday, December 21st, 2020, at the end of her fortnight’s training, the area manager asked her not to go to Swords to take up the post as planned and to come to the Fairview shop the following day instead.

When she did, the area manager told her he thought he had made a “casting error” and that despite prior experience as an assistant manager, she was “still very young” and “not ready for the job”, Ms Murphy told the tribunal. He then told her that if she was to come back in two years, she “might be better equipped”, she added.

She told the WRC that the area manager had not known what age she was when she was offered a job, but that when she reported for training, he asked her, and that she told him she was 22.

Billy Wall of Peninsula Business Services, appearing for Freshly Chopped, submitted that the company’s position was that Ms Murphy demonstrated a “poor attitude” during her training. She submitted that the complainant had been “caught on multiple occasions having lunch in her uniform in the seating area while having her feet on the store furniture”.

When this was put to her, Ms Murphy agreed she had been spoken to about wearing her uniform on lunch, but that nothing had been said about her feet being on the chair until the final meeting with the area manager.

She added that two photos submitted by the respondent had been taken on the same day, and not two separate days as the company claimed, and that her employer was “incorrect in their presentation of the facts” on this point.

The company took the position that Ms Murphy’s statement “was a lie” and that the hearing of her complaint was a “waste of taxpayers’ money”.

In his evidence, the area manager denied using the phrase “casting error” in her termination meeting, or that he had told her she would be “better equipped” for the job in two years.

He insisted he had said “nothing” to the complainant about her age, but told the WRC he “could not recall exactly” what he had said at their final meeting.

In her decision, WRC adjudicator Patricia Owens said that Ms Murphy had been “very forthcoming and honest in providing evidence... even when that own evidence was to her own detriment”.

She contrasted this with the testimony of the area manager, who she said displayed “poor recollection” and was “hesitant about a number of issues”.

“I did not find [him] to be a reliable witness,” she wrote.

She ruled on the balance of probabilities that the area manager “did make comment to the complainant about her ‘young age’” at the dismissal meeting.

In the absence of a probation policy or any evidence of a formal probation review process having taken place, Ms Owens said it was “difficult to accept” that the company had enough concern about Ms Murphy’s alleged conduct or performance to justify dismissing her on that basis.

She also noted an email from the claimant on December 23rd, 2023, asking the area manager to set out the reasons for her dismissal in writing – specifically alleging the manager had told her he felt she was “very young and not ready for this job”.

Replying correspondence included no denial of the allegation in regard to age, the adjudicator noted. “I am firmly of the opinion that a manager who had not made such a comment would immediately respond to make their position clear,” Ms Owens added.

She ruled that Ms Murphy’s “young age” was “one of the reasons” cited by the area manager when he dismissed the complainant, and awarded her €10,000 in compensation for discrimination on age grounds.