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Compensation for age discrimination

January 2009 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

More articles by this firm.

26-11-2008 - Nine months’ pay for unfair dismissal. That was the outcome for an employee who succeeded in an age discrimination suit.

District court judgment

Yvonne Frederiksen
yf@norrbomvinding.com

Nine months' pay for unfair dismissal. That was the outcome for an employee who succeeded in an age discrimination suit.

In 2004, the statutory retirement age was reduced from 67 to 65. The retirement age in a company was therefore also reduced as the employee handbook required the company retirement age to follow the statutory retirement age. But the employee handbook also said that employees must retire on the last day of the month in which they turned 67. Neither the collective agreement nor the individual contracts contained any provisions on compulsory retirement age.

The ambiguous guidelines were felt by one of the employees. Two months before her 65th birthday, she received a letter from her employer, informing her that her employment would terminate on her birthday. The letter also offered her a temporary contract for about 6 months. She accepted the offer and the contract was subsequently renewed for another 6 months.

Shortly before her temp contract ended, the employee objected through her trade union to the original termination of her employment, which she felt was contrary to the general termination provisions of the collective agreement. She therefore did not accept that she was on a temp contract, but considered herself to be on the permanent staff. The employee died before the last temp job ended. But together with her family, the trade union decided to pursue the age discrimination claim all the same.

'The employment will terminate on the last day of the month in which the employee turns 67.' This wording in the employee handbook alone satisfied the judge that the employee had been discriminated against because the letter referred to her 65th birthday. Re-employing her in a temp position adversely affected her rights and, accordingly, the employer had discriminated against her because of her age. Nine months' pay was the compensation awarded against the employer.

Norrbom Vinding notes:

  • that the ruling was the first one to award compensation under the age discrimination prohibition of the Danish Anti-Discrimination Act; and
  • that the large award should most likely be seen against the facts in this particular case, including the fact that in connection with turning 65, she had her contract terminated at very short notice and was not entitled to any notice of termination when the last temp job ended.

This information does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such

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