RTÉ ordered to pay €50,000 to former employee Valerie Cox

Broadcaster found to have discriminated against reporter on age grounds

Valerie Cox: worked in RTÉ for 21 years before her retirement in 2016. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The Workplace Relations Commission has ordered RTÉ to pay €50,000 to former employee Valerie Cox because the broadcaster discriminated against her on age grounds.

The WRC heard Ms Cox, who worked in RTÉ for 21 years before her retirement in 2016, had two separate contracts of employment with two separate sets of terms and conditions.

The first contract, dating from August 2004, was a full-time contract of direct employment, which involved work as a radio reporter on programmes including Today with Sean O’Rourke. This contract terminated on March 8th, 2016 when she turned 65.

The second contract, which started in August 2003, was a casual or irregular contract. This rostered her for one week every six weeks to work on “What it says in the Papers” for which she was paid a daily shift rate.


Ms Cox told the WRC adjudication hearing that in March 2016, after her full-time contract was terminated, she was told she would continue to be placed on the roster for the casual/irregular contract.

It said “a period of time would have to elapse between her retirement from her full-time position and being placed on the roster again in relation to this contract”.

Ms Cox had gone abroad in April 2016 with her husband Brian. They were working as volunteers in the refugee crisis in March 2016 when he was struck down with herpes viral encephalitis (HVE), which occurs when the virus enters the brain, and lapsed into a coma.

They returned to Ireland in June 2016 and he was in hospital for several months which she said was a “stressful time”.

Ms Cox said her full-time contract had terminated in March 2016, it was only in December 2016 she was told the casual contract had also been terminated.

The WRC heard there were two people aged over 65 working on the programme and that she wrote to HR looking for an extension to her contract but received no response and decided to take legal action in January 2017.

In evidence, RTÉ said the retirement age was clearly set out in their employment associated handbook, and Ms Cox had taken part in a pre-retirement course in October 2015.

The respondent (RTÉ) told the WRC it has a “considerable interest in ensuring the progress of younger members of staff and for the rotation of staff”.

The WRC Adjudication Officer said the staff handbook does provide for working beyond 65 years, “at least in relation to this category of employee” such as Ms Cox.

In its adjudication the WRC found RTÉ had not established its compulsory retirement age was objectively justified, and ruled that Ms Cox had been discriminated against on the basis of her age in relation to the termination of her casual/irregular contract of employment.

Reacting to the ruling, Ms Cox told RTÉ news she had taken the case because she was concerned about ageism in Ireland.