Employment: 42 year old banker wins age discrimination claim

January 3, 2010

A tribunal has upheld a 42 year older banker’s claims for age
discrimination, unfair dismissal and protective awards against one of
the largest banks in Canada, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
(“CIBC”).  The banker, who earned £900,000 a year, had been dismissed
last year amid the financial crisis.

CIBC dismissed Mr Beck, who was Head of Marketing in London, on the
pretext of a wider redundancy programme.  However, it was actively
seeking a replacement with a “younger, entrepreneurial profile”.  The
bank’s HR department had warned that the word “younger” was
inappropriate but the warning was dismissed on the basis that the
intended meaning of the word was seniority and not age.

Findings in relation to age discrimination

The tribunal accepted the age discrimination claim, ruling that it
was for CIBC to provide an adequate explanation for use of the word
“younger” in the recruitment brief, which it had failed to do.  Mr Beck
had relied on the use of this word in bringing his age discrimination
claim, on the grounds that this was evidence of direct age

The tribunal did not accept the explanation put forward by CIBC that
“younger” simply meant less senior or less experienced.  Nor did the
tribunal take into account the bank’s argument that it could not be
found to have discriminated against Mr Beck on the grounds of his age
because it had recruited him when he was over 40, such that age could
not be an issue.  The tribunal noted that the only question for it to
consider concerned the basis on which the decision to dismiss Mr Beck
had been made at the time of dismissal, and CIBC had not been
able to show that that decision was not influenced by Mr Beck’s age.


This case has, understandably, attracted considerable media
attention in both the UK and Canada.  Damages are yet to be determined
but are likely to be substantial due to the level of former salary and
the fact that age discrimination awards are not limited.

The decision serves as a clear reminder of the need for employers to
make decisions to dismiss solely on the basis of grounds which are
permissible and the importance of ensuring that evidence is retained to
note and support those grounds.


For further information or to discuss the issues raised, please
contact Colina Greenway (colina.greenway@abbisscadres.com)
on +44 (0) 203 051 5711.


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