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14-11-2013

John McCririck has lost his claim of age discrimination against Channel 4. Mr McCririck was not chosen for its new flagship horse racing programme and his contract was not renewed. He was 72 years old at the time and he had worked for “Channel 4 Racing” since 1984.

It was Channel 4’s case that it had the legitimate aim of bringing racing to a wider audience and that Mr McCririck’s on screen persona was unpalatable to such an audience.

Mr McCririck was not an employee of Channel 4 but a contract worker. Under the Equality Act 2010, a worker can bring a claim of direct age discrimination if they are discriminated against by not being permitted to work or continue to do work for the person or organisation who engages them. Unusually in discrimination law, age discrimination rules permit a defence of justification to claims of direct discrimination.

It has long been perceived that the media is obsessed by the cult of youth and to many this case may be seen as a another nail in the coffin of the rights of older employees. However the conclusion of the tribunal in this case appears to be that Mr McCririck was dismissed because his persona emanating from his appearances on celebrity television shows were a turn off to many and the desire to open up horse racing programmes to a wider audience was a legitimate aim of Channel 4.

The Tribunal noted that Mr MCririck was not handled with courtesy or respect and that his complaints of unfairness had merits. However this was not a complaint of unfair dismissal and that the tribunal could not draw an inference of discrimination from this.

It will be interesting to see if there is any appeal from this, but the judgment of the tribunal is extremely well thought out and it is difficult to see where an appeal would lie. A copy of the judgement can be downloaded here.

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