Executive called an ‘old fossil’ by his boss wins age discrimination case

A senior executive at a FTSE 250 firm who was called an “old fossil” and sacked by his younger boss has successfully sued for age discrimination.

Glenn Cowie was told he “did not know how to manage millennials” and replaced with a younger woman after his company implemented a new policy that encouraged managers not to hire anyone over 45.

He was 58 when he was told he would be dismissed from his £300,000 role at global engineering company Vesuvius after almost 40 years.

Mr Cowie – who accused the firm of having an “institutional and deep prejudice against older employees” – has now won claims of age discrimination, victimisation and unfair dismissal and is set to be awarded compensation.

The tribunal in central London heard he started working for Vesuvius – which makes products for the car industry, steelmakers and foundries – in 1981.

In 2014 he was promoted to Global Business Unit President of Foundry Industries, one of the four divisions of the company.

The hearing was told that in September 2017 Patrick Andre was appointed CEO of Vesuvius, having previously been Mr Cowie’s immediate peer.

It heard that Mr Andre emailed Mr Cowie in May 2018 to say any new recruits should be no older than 45, with the aim to find people “with enough time left in their career in order to develop”.

Mr Cowie said this followed a meeting in February that year in which the resignation of a manager who was in his 30s was raised. He told the tribunal Mr Andre said he was “an old fossil who doesn’t know how to manage millennials”.

Mr Cowie said he remembered the comment very well as “it was so out of the blue and inappropriate”.

In September 2018 Mr Andre indicated to the company’s board that Mr Cowie was not performing well enough in his role and that he had six months to improve.

He did not tell Mr Cowie but sacked him the following August, the tribunal heard.

Following his dismissal, Mr Cowie filed a grievance complaining of age discrimination and later took Vesuvius to the tribunal.

The tribunal heard Mr Cowie was 58 at the time of his sacking while his replacement, Karena Cancilleri, was 51 years old, which Vesuvius argued showed that the under 45 policy was a suggestion rather than a rule.

Judge Adkin said it was “something very close to a rule” for the company management.

He said it was “unusual” that the limit was set so far below the retirement age. This was “potentially suggestive of a mindset where assumptions were made about people and their abilities because of their age”, he said.

The tribunal ruled Mr Cowie was unfairly dismissed by Vesuvius and suffered age discrimination at the hands of the company and Mr Andre. It also ruled he had suffered victimisation by raising grievances and appeals following his sacking.

A hearing to decide the level of compensation he will be awarded will take place later this year.

Additional reporting by SWNS

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