U.K. Top Court Rejects Lawyer’s Age Discrimination Appeal

The U.K. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by a lawyer who claimed age discrimination when his law firm forced him to retire on his 65th birthday.

Judge Brenda Hale ruled the partnership contract that mandated retirement at 65 was justified in this case.

“All businesses will now have to give careful consideration to what, if any, mandatory retirement rules can be justified,” she said in a written judgment.

The case was brought by Leslie Seldon, a partner at Clarkson Wright & Jakes Ltd, forced to retire in 2006. Seldon sued the firm for age discrimination before an employment tribunal, which ruled the partnership deed imposing a mandatory retirement age was legitimate.

Seldon’s lawyer Robin Allen didn’t immediately respond to a call requesting comment.

While rejecting Seldon’s bid for a declaration that he had been discriminated against, the Supreme Court did send the case back to the employment tribunal to reconsider whether the law firm’s reasons for requiring retirement at 65 in the partnership deed were appropriate.

“Seldon is one of the most important cases in employment law in recent years,” Claire Dawson, a partner at law firm Russell Jones & Walker, said before the ruling. “If forcing a partner to retire is justifiable, then employers may use similar arguments to attempt to justify” forcing workers out even though the government has decided to abolish mandatory retirement at 65.

End Stereotypes

Age UK, a charity that was a party in the case, said in a statement the judgment provided new guidance on the way older employees should be treated.

“One of the things Age UK set out to achieve was to end the reliance on stereotyping of older workers, conflating age with declining ability,” Declan O’Dempsey, the charity’s lawyer, said in a phone interview. “This firmly establishes that reliance of such stereotypes is not allowed.”

In another Supreme Court ruling on a retirement-related matter handed down today, a former police employee was found to have been been indirectly discriminated against when he didn’t qualify for a promotion because he didn’t have time to complete the necessary training before he retired.

Terence Homer sued the West Yorkshire police because it brought in new rules requiring a four-year law degree when he was three years from retirement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kit Chellel in London at cchellel@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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