Age Discrimination: what are the odds?

A recently reported case regarding a high profile Racing Pundit caught our attention this week, as it makes some clear distinctions as to what a Tribunal will consider when judging an age discrimination case.

This case is a stark comparison to a case last year whereby a BBC Countyfile presenter successfully claimed age discrimination, on the grounds that they had been replaced by a younger counterpart, without meritable reason, other than the desire for a younger presenter, and the attention and rating such a change may have brought. However in the case of MCCrick V Channel 4 Television, the matter was a different story all together.

The Claimant had been providing racing punditry, especially on betting tips and odds, to Channel 4, since 1981. Between 1996 and 2012 a company HP Ltd were responsible for the employment of pundits, as such they employed the Claimant throughout this time period. However due to the number of other TV appearances the Claimant made, such as in celebrity Big Brother, and famously in Celebrity Wife Swap, his broadcasting work reduced between 2008 and 2010 from 80 days per year to just 40. During these appearances the Claimant demonstrated a number of less desirable character traits, such as being grossly outspoken and chauvinistic.

In 2012, Channel 4 secured a lucrative contract to host the main racing events instead of the BBC, including the main events in the racing calendar, such as the Grand National and Royal Ascot. This gave Channel 4 the opportunity to expand its viewership for not only the new coverage but for its existing coverage as well. There was a clear objective set out that those production companies tendering for the coverage would need to bring in new audience members whilst retaining their loyal fanatic racing fans at the same time. HP Ltd, who had previously dealt with the production (and who had previously employed the Claimant), tendered to continue their contract with Channel 4. However their bid was not successful and a new Company IMG Ltd took over the production contract.

IMG Ltd wanted to take their coverage to a new, more serious level, and as such undertook market research in order to gauge the public feeling on the Claimant, the current pundit on the show. The results showed a staggeringly negative feeling towards the Claimant, comparing very poorly to the other counterparts on the programme.

After numerous discussions it was ruled that the Claimants services would no longer be required and he was dismissed in October 2012. The Claimant subsequently made a claim of age discrimination against the Channel 4 and IMG Ltd on the grounds that he had only been dismissed because of his age (72).

The Tribunal here, had to distinguish if the reason for the Claimants dismissal was in fact on the grounds of his age, and, if this was the case, was this to achieve a legitimate aim, or policy objective. If this was the case then the Claimants dismissal would not be discriminatory. It was deemed that it was the Claimants personality and known public distaste which ultimately lead to his dismissal, and as Channel 4 wanted to widen their racing coverage this could not be achieved whilst their key pundit was so widely disliked by the general public. Therefore the Claimants dismissal was to achieve a legitimate aim, and was a proportionate route to achieving it.

Published: 17 Feb 2014

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