14-year-old waitress dismissal was age discrimination
- Date: Friday 26th November 2021
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Miss Cassidy was offered a trial shift at the Daimler Foundation’s café. She was shown how to wait tables, load the dishwasher and operate the till. At the end of her shift, her manager indicated that she’d done a good job and she was left with the impression that she would be working for the company every Saturday between 10am and 2pm.
On her second day, Miss Cassidy was approached by the café owner’s partner and told she shouldn’t be on the till. She was then sent home.
A week later, her manager called her to say that the company accountant had informed him that Cassidy could no longer work at the café for health and safety reasons. He assured her that she had done nothing wrong and that it was purely her age that was the issue.
In court, the manager denied this happened and insisted that Cassidy was dismissed because of the severity and stressful nature of the job and that Cassidy would not have been able to cope with it.
However, the tribunal did not find that Cassidy seemed like someone who would have been unduly stressed working in a café and awarded £2,500 for injury to feelings and direct discrimination (with an added interest of £300).
Interestingly, all of this could have been avoided had the organisation conducted a simple young workers’ risk assessment. It’s fairly obvious that the contract was terminated because the more senior leaders of the team decided that employing someone under the age of 16 comes with an increased level of responsibility.
Having said that, employing younger people can bring great benefits like giving others the opportunity to mentor, observing social responsibility by giving an opportunity to build experience and also being able to shape and mould behaviours.
Had the organisation said from the outset that, according to their risk assessment, the work was unsuitable for someone under the age of 16, this would have been perfectly legitimate.
Also, terminating someone’s contract because they can’t cope / don’t perform well is a valid reason for dismissal. But once you have taken the decision to take someone on, regardless of their age, they are entitled to the same protection as anyone else.
Source: Manuela Grossmann