Earlier this month, the telecommunications company Eir received a directive to rehire a 65-year-old employee. Thomas Doolin was made to retire his €35,000 job earlier this year, but now Eir has to give him his job back. They also have to pay him for the time he was not working due to being discriminated against his age.
This decision is believed to be a legal milestone, as a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudicator has never previously used their authority to make a company give someone their job back in response to a complaint under the Employment Equality Act 1998.
The employee reported that in February of this year, he was informed that he must retire from his role as a desktop support agent in the internal IT department of the telecom company as soon as he reached his 65th birthday on July 1st.
Mr. Doolin, expressed his affection for the work, emphasizing that he had excelled in his role over the past four years and noted the decision for an early retirement to be unfair.
The company’s explanation for retiring Mr. Doolin was that they believed bringing in an early retirement age across the company was a reasonable decision. They said they needed to keep a good mix of ages among their employees and avoid the risk of large numbers of staff retiring at the same time.
Eir’s HR director, Derek Mangan, also explained that the company might face difficulties with administrative processes, encounter extra costs, and have concerns about health and safety if they couldn’t implement a single retirement age. This is particularly relevant for 85% of Eir employees who work in the field.
Nevertheless, adjudicator Breiffni O’Neill clarified that the health and safety considerations were not relevant to Mr. Doolin as he worked exclusively in an office and at a desk. Mr. Doolin was forced into an early retirement, and his only source of income was the social welfare benefit, which was €200 a week, 40% less than his weekly income.
Due to Mr. Doolin having a good relationship with Eir and being viewed as a valuable employee, Mr. O’Neill ordered that Mr. Doolin get his job back. Mr O’Neill told Eir they had to give Mr. Doolin his old job back, starting from the day they made him retire. While there’s no extra payment, the reinstatement order means Mr. Doolin should receive his salary for the period he was not working, from July 1st to November 30th this year.
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