LN Not Guilty Of Ageism
Live Nation unfairly dismissed the front-of-house manager of the Bristol Hippodrome but was not guilty of discriminating against him because of his age.
The ruling came from an Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), after the company – the U.K.’s largest theatre operator – appealed an earlier Employment Tribunal ruling that the company had been guilty of ageism.
LN said it fired Ghannam Hussain, who was 51 at the time, in part because the company’s managers thought he found it difficult to work with younger female staff.
It argued on appeal that the managers’ fears did not amount to ageism.
The EAT agreed, saying that while such a dismissal might be unfair, it would not be unfair because of alleged age discrimination.
It said LN’s actions were reasonable because if an employer dismisses an employee on suspicion of age discrimination, that in itself is not age discrimination on the part of the company.
“An unjustified or unreasoned belief that the claimant himself has ageist tendencies may render a dismissal unfair, but it does not begin to justify an inference that he has been dismissed by reason of his age,” the EAT ruling concluded.
“We agree with Live Nation that were it otherwise, no employer could safely deal with a suspected discriminator for fear that they would be found to be discriminating.
“The reference to him [Hussain] being ‘too old to change’ could, in an appropriate case, provide some basis for inferring age discrimination,” said Mr Justice Elias.
“In this case, however, there was no evidence as such to justify that conclusion. The [original] Tribunal stated in terms – protesting too much, we think – that this was evidence and not mere supposition. We respectfully disagree.”
One employment law expert said the ruling would help employers to deal with suspected workplace discrimination.
“This decision is consistent with previous decisions examining other areas of discrimination,” said Ben Doherty, an employment law specialist at Pinsent Masons.
“If the decision had gone the other way it may have made it more difficult for employers to take action against employees they suspected of ageist, sexist or racist behaviour,” he explained.
“Support for the idea that taking action against ageism is itself ageist would not have been good for employers or employees.”
LN didn’t contest the earlier tribunal’s ruling that Hussain’s dismissal was also unfair because the company hadn’t followed the correct dismissal procedures.
It was fined £40,000 for the breach of code and ordered to pay Hussain £42,209 in compensation.