Two workers who suffered age-based discrimination when their employers forced them into retirement have been awarded over €80,000 in compensation between them.
The Irish Wheelchair Association has been ordered by the Workplace Relations Commission to pay €31,830 to its former employee Patrick McInerney after retiring him at the age of 66 without objective justification.
Separately, a counsellor at the University of Limerick, Michael O’Mahony, who had hoped to work until the age of 70 but was terminated at 68, is to receive €50,000 in compensation.
Both men had brought complaints under the Employment Equality Act 1998, alleging discrimination on the grounds of age, with both complaints upheld by the tribunal in published decisions.
The University of Limerick case followed a dispute over the employment status of a group of student counsellors following inquiries by the Revenue Commissioners and the Scope section of the Department of Social Protection in 2018, which led to the complainant being put on payroll the following year.
University HR staff told him in September 2019 that he would have to retire within a fortnight as he was over 65, the public service retirement age for staff who started before 2004, he said.
He said after he got his solicitor involved he was allowed to keep working and expected to be allowed to stay on until 70 – but received notice of termination while on certified sick leave in January 2021.
Adjudicating officer Bríd Deering wrote that it was “well established that the imposition of a mandatory retirement age is discriminatory” and that the university had offered “no evidence” that it had been required to do so under the Civil Service Regulation Act 1956, as it had claimed.
“The complainant was fully capable of undertaking the work. He did so for years after the age of 65 and continues to do so in private practice at the age of 70,” she wrote.
Mr O’Mahony’s forced retirement amounted to a “discriminatory dismissal on grounds of age”, she wrote, and ordered the university to pay him €50,000 in compensation.
Patrick McInerney, meanwhile, told the tribunal that the Irish Wheelchair Association moved to shut down the service from which he had been placed on layoff at the start of the pandemic.
It informed him and a colleague of the decision in August 2020, he said.
However, while his colleague had been made redundant, he was required to work on until the following year, when he reached the age of 66, he said.
The tribunal also heard another colleague at the service was transferred to another role in the organisation.
That was the age the disability charity had set down in his employment contract for retirement, its solicitor told the tribunal.
Mr McInerney, who represented himself, said other staff at the organisation “had worked into their 70s”.
Adjudicating officer Kevin Baneham found the dismissal was “clearly related to age” and that the Irish Wheelchair Association had failed to show any “objective justification” for ending Mr McInerney’s employment.
Referring to the redundancy arrangement for one of Mr McInerney’s colleagues and the transfer of another, Mr Baneham wrote: “Neither course was offered to the complainant because of his age.”
He ordered the disability charity to pay him €31,830 “for the effects of discrimination”.