Real estate agent dismisses employee for looking too young
A Melbourne real estate agent has been ordered to pay compensation by the Fair Work Ombudsmen for firing an employee because the company's directors felt she looked too young.
The 23-year-old woman was hired as a personal assistant by the real estate franchise in June 2010. Though her main role was administrative support, her supervisor intended for her to eventually participate in sales and negotiation activities too. When she first visited the office, one of the company's directors expressed concern about her "overall young look."
Just under two weeks after commencing the job, the woman was enlisted to record bids at an auction. The next evening, the supervisor contacted the woman and explained that two of the company's directors were concerned that she looked too young and was too short—and that these factors would be a disadvantage in auctions where she "would not have the presence to negotiate effectively," according to the Fair Work Ombudsman's Enforceable Undertaking.
A follow-up email from one of the directors suggested that a lack of work was the real reason she had been let go, but that the supervisor had used the woman's perceived age as an excuse.
The ombudsman ruled that the woman's dismissal contravened section 351(1) of the Fair Work Act. The subsequent Enforceable Undertaking requires the real estate agent to fulfil a number of compliance activities, including submitting copies of its recruitment policies and procedures to the ombudsman; sending an apology to the employee; paying the employee six weeks' compensation; sending a memo to other offices in the franchise group; and conducting compliance training.