ARTICLE
24 April 2024

Think Twice Before You Offer A Chair To An Older Employee!

PF
Pierson Ferdinand

Contributor

Pierson Ferdinand
An employment tribunal in the UK stated that "[o]ffering a chair to an older colleague at work could count as age discrimination."
UK Employment and HR
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This could be age discrimination!

Say what?

An employment tribunal in the UK stated that "[o]ffering a chair to an older colleague at work could count as age discrimination."

"Being given the opportunity to sit while younger staff stay standing up may amount to "less favourable treatment," according to a UK news outlet. This "could be breaking equality laws as the older employee could conclude they were being treated 'disadvantageously.'"

Offering a chair, a polite thing to do we were taught, may be "less favourable treatment," and, in American legal parlance, "an adverse employment action?"

Wow.

Sounds a little bit discordant to our ears, perhaps, but in the end, the case facts make this sound not so strange, and the holding seems sound.

A 66-year-old employee, older than anyone else in the workforce, believed that he was being forced out by his employer, and felt that he was "being singled out" when his manager offered him a chair when no one else was offered a chair. He claimed that he overheard that the employer was "encouraging people to retire at 66."

OK, so in context, the offer of a seat seems less strange now.

The tribunal stated that "though there was nothing unpleasant or rude about the way in which he asked the question," and "Given that we found it was an unusual thing to do, in our judgment [he] could legitimately conclude that he was being treated differently to others and therefore disadvantageously."

Wow.

In the end, though, the Tribunal, being told by the employer that "chairs were routinely offered to staff who might find them beneficial, because of health or pregnancy," held that the manager "had been concerned with [the claimant's] health, not his age," and denied the claim.

Whew.

Takeaway

In the current workplace, where almost any act or comment may be perceived as a slight or, worse, an "adverse employment action," be careful – remember the old saw: "let no good deed go unpunished."

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

ARTICLE
24 April 2024

Think Twice Before You Offer A Chair To An Older Employee!

UK Employment and HR

Contributor

Pierson Ferdinand
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