Pepsi worker devastated at being forced to retire at 65 gets €40,000 in age bias case

A former PepsiCo worker who said it was “soul destroying” to be forced into retirement at 65 has been awarded €40,000.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered that Pat Cassidy be paid the compensation after finding he was discriminated against on the grounds of age.

Mr Cassidy, who worked as a general operative at a plant in Little Island, Cork, for more than 30 years, told a hearing “all he wanted was to be treated with respect”.

He said he found it soul-destroying to be cast out when he reached his 65th birthday.

Mr Cassidy said he had worked well with the company and sought an extension of his time at the plant, where he had worked in the factory’s “salt area”.

In the decision, it said he was employed by Portfolio Concentrate Solutions, a subsidiary of PepsiCo. 

“I feel justified by this outcome,” he said.

“I did not get the opportunity to remain at work as I had requested, but I’m pleased that workers in the organisation may now have the choice to remain at work beyond their 65th birthday.”

He told the WRC he believed he would have been capable of continuing to work at 66 because he had passed tests at his regular health clinics.

The employer said the site, which manufactures beverages and employs 560 workers, had a mandatory retirement age of 65. It claimed he was on full notice of a retirement age of 65.

His application to keep working was denied on the basis of inter-generational fairness. In view of its health and safety obligations, the employer considered 65 to be a reasonable age to impose retirement.

WRC adjudication officer Patsy Doyle said the company sought to rely on “legitimately stated aims” to provide a rationale for a mandatory retirement age. “But the means practised to that end were neither necessary nor proportionate,” she said.

She said the company “presented as being fearful” of managing a transition to work patterns to help address the transition to State pension age moving to 66 rather than 65.

“I wonder if the company viewed the complainant’s as a trojan horse type of approach – that an individual concession may lead to an opening of floodgates?” she said.

She added that she was dissatisfied with a delay in processing the complainant’s grievance to the point “where it became akin to an almost academic exercise”, one month after his official retirement.

Ms Doyle said she was also dissatisfied by the lack of an individualist and supportive approach “which was overtaken by a stereotypical reliance on retirement at age 65”. 

“It is regrettable that the complainant was left feeling cast aside after a fulfilling career,” she said.

She said that, crucially, the employer did not request any medical, risk or operational assessments of the complainant in his day-to-day role.

Ms Doyle said he was treated less favourably on age grounds, when he sought to extend his tenure from his 65th birthday in February 2020.

She said he availed of a lump sum on retirement, but did not retire on a full pension.

Andrea Cleere of Siptu, who represented Mr Cassidy, said more private-sector workers were seeking to remain at work longer. 

She said the commission had ordered that the company and union enter discussions on the implementation of a code of practice on longer working.

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