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compensation Nurse gets €85,000 payout after care home forced her to retire at 65

The ruling has been described as 'a significant warning to employers'

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A ruling that a nursing home must pay €85,000 compensation to a senior staff nurse for discrimination, after 'retiring' her at the age of 66, has been described as "a significant warning to employers".

Employment law expert Richard Grogan was commenting after Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator Aideen Collard has ordered the €85,000 pay-out in the age discrimination case.

Ms Collard said the award is "proportionate" in circumstances where the nursing home made no effort to comply with the Employment Equality Acts.

In the age discrimination case, Ms Collard said the senior staff nurse "suffered stress and indignity" along with 11 months' loss of earnings and denial of statutory redundancy and an ex-gratia payment.

In evidence, the nurse put the loss of earnings over the 11 months at around €64,713, along with a statutory redundancy of approximately €7,500 and an ex-gratia payment of around €3,000.

Ms Collard stated that on July 27, 2018, the senior nurse was informed by letter by her employer that she would retire compulsorily October 31, 2018 upon reaching her 65th birthday. From then she said, "her employment was tainted with illegality and discrimination on the ground of age".

The nursing home granted the senior nurse a one-year extension - but Ms Collard stated that when the senior nurse requested a further extension in writing, there was no meaningful engagement by the nursing home.

In her letter, the senior nurse manager wrote: "I am fit and able to work and have never been out on sick leave in the last five years, including in the last year."

Ms Collard said: "Again, no rationale was provided to show that her compulsory retirement was objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim and was appropriate and necessary to achieve that aim."

In her evidence, the senior nurse told the WRC that she was extremely upset at the manner in which her employment had been terminated and the residents she cared for were also distressed by her departure and some of them sent her cards.

Ms Collard stated that she fully accepted the nurse's evidence that there was ample work available, particularly as the nursing home was recruiting agents and non-European Economic Area (EEA) staff at the time of her dismissal, and with an exemplary work record she was entirely capable of undertaking the work required.

The nurse alleged that the nursing home had acted unlawfully and in breach of the Employment Equality Acts on the ground of age, including refusing to engage meaningfully with her in relation to her request to remain in employment.

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The nurse also claimed that the nursing home failed to show that its refusal to allow her to remain in employment corresponded to a real need and legitimate objective and was an appropriate or necessary means to achieve that.

The nurse said that the decision not to renew her fixed term contract amounted to discriminatory dismissal.

She said that put quite simply, but for her age, she would have remained in employment with the nursing home until it ceased trading.

The nursing home is subject to a High Court winding-up order and the appointed liquidator attended the WRC hearing in its place.

However, no evidence was proffered in rebuttal of the senior nurse's complaint.

Commenting on the case, Dublin-based solicitor Richard Grogan said serves as a significant warning to employers of the need to comply with Employment Equality legislation concerning age discrimination.

He said: "The days of someone who has got to 65 and is going to retire have well and truly ceased.

"The 65 age was historically picked because that was the old age pension age."

Mr Grogan, who was not involved in the case, said that the nurse will receive the €85,000 despite the nursing home company being in liquidation.

He said: "This lady is guaranteed payment of the award through the EU Insolvency Directive and will be paid from the insolvency fund."

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