A 63 year-old aged care nurse is claiming she was discriminated against on the basis of age, after her younger manager sent a series of rude text messages about her to her colleagues.
*Mary said when her co-worker was promoted to become her manager at the Brisbane care home in 2015, she began to treat Mary less favourably.
In conversations and text messages with other staff, the manager would allegedly refer to Mary as “the old bitch”, and “old bag”, and “fat” and that she was “too old to be here”.
Miles Heffernan, Director of Litigation at Discrimination Claims, has taken on Mary’s case, which he said isn’t clear cut.
“Technically speaking there’s no direct discrimination, because the manager is saying those horrible things to other people, not directly to Mary, so she is speaking pejoratively, so is it age discrimination? – well, we say that it is,” he said.
Mr Heffernan has lodged a claim in the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland, arguing that Mary was treated less favourably on the basis of her age, because the manager didn’t just comment about her to the other workers.
“What we are saying is that the text messages are evidence of a pattern of behaviour that my client has experienced, and the messages just support a narrative that the other behaviour is motivated by my client’s age.”
According to Mr Heffernan, the manager is alleged to have also been abusive and aggressive towards Mary, repeatedly telling her that she “should retire” and that she “should quit” because she’s “too old”.
“So while the texts on their own may not be evidence enough of age discrimination, other behaviour that is of a similar nature is based on her age, and put together, we believe it is age discrimination,” Mr Heffernan said.
Mary took stress leave in August last year because of the alleged abuse, and hasn’t returned to work since.
Age discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably because of their age, whether they be too young or too old.
The most recent study into age discrimination found more than three in 10 Australians aged 45 and over have experienced age discrimination while employed, or looking for work.
Mr Heffernan said unprofessional behaviour by a boss is not necessarily unlawful, and even though in this case he described the manager as “a very very nasty cruel vindictive person”, that is not always enough to take action.
“Just being unprofessional will not bring the matter before the commission,” he said.
“We can only help people who are having a bad time at work when a law has been broken, and unfortunately, there are many instances when workers are exposed to bad behaviour, but it’s not unlawful.”
Discrimination Claims is now waiting for the Anti Discrimination Commission to decide if it will accept Mary’s case.
If you believe you have been discriminated against on the basis of age, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call Discrimination Claims on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice about your options.