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LEGAL UPDATE – Youthful enthusiasm costs employers dearly

Youthful enthusiasm costs employers dearly

An employment tribunal in Northern Ireland has ruled that a 58 year old job applicant, Mr McCoy, had been discriminated against on grounds of his age when he was not appointed to a post as salesman with a timber firm. An important factor was that the job advert had mentioned “youthful enthusiasm” as a desirable attribute.
Mr. McCoy, aged 58, had applied for one of two posts with a Belfast timber firm, McCoy v McGregor & Sons Ltd, and, after two interviews, was told he was unsuccessful. The two other applicants, both in their 40’s, got the two jobs.

The Tribunal drew an inference of discrimination from the use in the recruitment advertisement of the phrase “Youthful enthusiasm”.

The Tribunal also concluded that there was a linkage made “between the issue of age and the concept of what has been variously referred to in the case as ‘enthusiasm’, ‘motivation’ and ‘drive’.

The Tribunal also found that  Mr McCoy was asked age-related questions, i.e. queries were raised with him regarding such matters as his drive and motivation at the age of 58.

Mr McCoy’s significant experience and knowledge of the timber trade made him a strong candidate for one of the posts. While the employer denied age was a factor in the selection process, the tribunal found their explanations unsatisfactory and drawing on the age-related issues discovered in the recruitment process, found that age was a determining factor and but for Mr McCoy being 58, he would more probably than not have been selected for one of the two posts and that this constituted unlawful discrimination.

The Tribunal will reconvene to consider the matter of remedies.

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