If you are looking for a boy-friend/girl-friend/husband/wife/partner or a person for ANY other role in your life (e.g. baby sitter, chauffeur, pool boy ;-), cleaner, butler etc), you have a certain type of person in mind. You might have an idea if that person should be male or female, you know what skills that person should have and without a doubt you also think about that person’s age.

It is extremely unlikely that you will select a male baby-sitter that is 80 years of age if he applied for the job and if you are looking for a life-partner you DEFINITELY have an ideal age range and lots of other “parameters” in mind.

This is normal and everyone would agree that it makes sense. However, if a company is looking for an employee, they are NOT allowed to make a decision based on age. EVEN if the applicant is 64 and the other 20 people in your company are all under 25 you are NOT allowed to rule someone out because of age. Do you have to employ the 64 year old who will retire in one year? No! But if the reason for not hiring him is age, it could cost you a LOT. So what do you do? You INVENT reasons for rejecting him or you lie about your reasons. So making things up is ok, but being honest is not? Yep, that’s the world we live in.

The background of the story is this: The State’s further education and training organisation “Solas” was looking for an Assistant Manager for its Limerick Training Centre in 2013. Someone who was an employee in Solas already applied for the job and he was coincidentally 60 years of age. If that person had the skills and all other pre-requisites then the age shouldn’t be much of a problem, but Solas doesn’t allow you to work after 65, so in this case the employee only had 5 years left and maybe the company would have liked to get some more years out of this appointment.

A question was asked that referred to the age of the applicant. The applicant claims he was asked “Do you not think at this stage that you should be taking it easier?” and Solas claims they asked “What motivates you to take on this role at this stage in your career?”. No matter what the wording was (and we will never find out!), the question was about the age.

The poor applicant felt that an assumption was made about his ability to do the job based on his age and he couldn’t sleep that night because he felt unfairly treated. So he sued Solas and the Labour Court (officially: Workplace Relations Commission) sentenced Solas to pay him 20,000 Euro. Not because he should have got the job and didn’t. Not because he was fired, because he wasn’t. No, just because the FELT that injustice was done to him.

We don’t know if he got the job, but what is your guess: Would he have sued Solas if they had given him the job? I’d say he would have happily taken it and suddenly would have much less unfairly treated.

And do we think that age was the only problem? Well, if he was supremely suitable and another candidate was less suitable but was younger. It would be odd if the employer chose the less suitable candidate. And if two candidates were exactly evenly suitable, but there is only one job than SOME criteria has to be found to make a decision. And should it then not be permissible to use ANY criteria?

Sure, we will all feel a little miffed when we get older an start feeling pushed out of the areas in life that we would like to be in. But who do you sue if you are 65 and the 20 year old man or woman that you adore doesn’t want to marry you because you are too old? Ageism? Nonsense!

There is NO justification in awarding someone 20k because in an interview a question about his age was asked. Political correctness or non-discrimination is definitely gone mad!!

Oh and by the way, do you think that the 20k punishment will stop the employer next time to make a decision based on age? Not in the slightest, they will just not ask the question anymore and will instead PRETEND that the decision was based on skills/aptitude/attitude etc. Result: The 60 year old applicant will still not get the job, but he will never find out why. Well, that is a a good improvement, dear Workplace Relations Commission.