Oldie but not goldie: 67 year old fails to prove dismissal was due to age

A 67-year-old company accountant has failed to prove that his dismissal within three months of commencing work with a lighting technologies company was due to his age.

Federal Magistrate Heather Riley said that while LED Technologies should have gathered more documentary evidence to substantiate concerns about the accountant’s performance, she did not accept that his age was the significant reason for his dismissal.

The accountant worked for the company from August 31 last year until his dismissal on November 9.

The company argued that, during this period, the accountant did not attend to his basic bookkeeping duties, leading to late payments and incorrect entering of financial transactions.

The accountant notified the company when he began working with its QuickBooks accounting software that it had become defective and slow due to poor maintenance.

He was given the go-ahead by one manager to spend time reviewing the company’s database and undertaking work to improve the software.

However, the company’s managing director became concerned that the accountant was not attending to the company’s bookkeeping needs, which led to external payments running late or being missed and incoming payments being recorded incorrectly.

“Unfortunately, the problems in this case appear to have stemmed from a lack of agreement within management about the [accountant’s] role,” Federal Magistrate Riley said in her decision.

She said, however, that problems with the company’s database “were probably not so severe as to prevent the basic bookkeeping work being done on a day to day basis, at least in the short term”.

Federal Magistrate Riley said the company’s hiring of a 59-year-old replacement for the dismissed accountant also showed that management was “entirely content with employing accountants who are around retirement age”.

iHR Australia advises that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age in the workplace in terms of recruitment, promotion, training, terms and conditions of a job and dismissal.