Age discrimination: $11,000 awarded to job applicant

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Age discrimination: $11,000 awarded to job applicant

Asking questions of a job applicant regarding irrelevant personal attributes may provide evidence of discriminatory conduct and for this reason should be avoided.

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Asking questions of a job applicant regarding irrelevant personal attributes may provide evidence of discriminatory conduct and for this reason should be avoided.

In a recent decision of the Queensland Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, the questions asked by a company director of a prospective employee were found to constitute discrimination based on age (Tully v McIntyre & Manmac Holdings Pty Limited; No H97 of 1997).

During the course of a telephone conversation between the complainant (a middle aged male), and the director, the complainant expressed interest in obtaining employment with the company. The director asked the complainant, "how old are you?" When the complainant refused to answer, the director then said, "We’ve only got a bunch of young blokes here, so how old are you?" When the complainant again refused to answer, the director said, "If you won’t tell me how old you are we’ll call it quits right now", and hung up.

The Tribunal found that the references and the context of the conversation clearly pointed to the director displaying an interest in employing persons within a certain age group. It was found that the director discriminated against the complainant in deciding who should be offered employment.

When assessing the amount of damages that should be awarded, the Tribunal took into account the fact that during the course of the hearing, the director said that the complainant was "looking for money" because he was "out of work". The Tribunal found that this suggestion was insulting and attracted an award of aggravated compensatory damages.

The damages award was set at $11,000 which included amounts for the loss of the chance of employment with the company and the component for aggravated compensatory damages. The employer company was found to be vicariously liable for the acts of the director, and the award was recoverable against either or both of them.

 

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