A former teacher at a major Victorian university is accusing the institution of age discrimination, after being denied an extension to his contract in June 2009.

Last week, the Age reported that the teacher had worked with the university since 1993. He initially worked full time before moving to a pre-retirement contract and reducing his working hours to three days a week in 2006.

However, when the teacher requested a one-year extension on his contract in 2009, he was declined on the grounds that his head of school did not believe it appropriate for recently retired colleagues to take on “sessional appointments”.

The teacher has now filed a complaint with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), as he believes the University’s decision amounts to discrimination on the basis of his age.

This case serves as a good example of how careful organisations need to be when making decisions such as this, in order to ensure that individuals are being assessed on their individual merits rather than factors such as age, gender or religion.

According to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees in the workplace, on the basis of either actual or assumed age.

This can include making decisions about redundancy or retirement based on someone’s age, as well as choosing not to interview someone on the basis that they are either too young or too old to fit in with existing employees.

A study conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission earlier this year found that 71 per cent of Australians believe age discrimination is either common or very common in this country.

Organisations concerned about the potential for age discrimination in the workplace may want to contact professional HR consulting firms for help in reviewing HR policies and practices to ensure compliance and minimal risk. HR consulting firms may also advise on other important measures such as EEO training for staff and managers.

News.com.au reports that the teacher, who is now in his 70s, will call on three University staff members to help persuade VCAT that he was declined the aforementioned contract extension due to his age.

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