The Fair Work Ombudsman is warning organisations discriminating on the basis of age will not be tolerated in the wake of its first litigation on the matter.
A restaurant operator who terminated the employment of a worker because he was turning 65 has been penalised $29,150 for breaking age discrimination and record-keeping laws.
The company, Theravanish Investments Pty Ltd, has been fined $20,790 while its joint directors and equal shareholders, Nopporn Theravanish and Michael Theravanish, have also been penalised a further $4,180 each.
Additionally Theravanish Investments have been ordered to pay $10,000 compensation to the former employee.
The long-serving restaurant employee was told his employment would be terminated on his 65th birthday in way of letter drafted by the company’s accountant who had no workplace relations experience or training. The letter stated that 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”.
The employee wrote back stating that the termination of his employment was “irrefutably an act of blatant discrimination”.
“It must be pointed out, my effectiveness as a food and beverage attendant when I turn 65 is no less than my effectiveness at the age of 64,” he said.
After the company reaffirmed its position and advised the employee it did not wish to enter into further correspondence with him, the employee lodged a complaint with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s investigation found that the conduct contravened provisions of the Fair Work Act that make it unlawful to discriminate against employees on the basis of their age and Brisbane’s Federal Circuit Court agreed.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James stated the case served as a reminder that discrimination against employees on the grounds of age is unlawful and won’t be tolerated.
“Limiting employment opportunities of workers because of their age is totally unacceptable and we take such conduct very seriously because of the impact it has on individual workers and the labour market generally,” James said.
“Discriminating against workers because of their age can have a terrible impact on their self-respect and dignity and deprive them of an equal opportunity to make a positive economic benefit to the company and the wider community.”
Under the Fair Work Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the grounds of pregnancy, race, colour, sex, sexual preference, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer responsibilities, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.
The Fair Work Ombudsman, was empowered to investigate discrimination in 2009 and has since received more than 80 complaints relating to age discrimination, making it among the top-five types of discrimination investigated by the Agency.
The majority of age discrimination complaints come from mature-age workers, with workers aged as young as their 40s having complained they have been discriminated against because of their mature age.