Fanning the flames of age discrimination claims

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The rush of pre-bonus investment banking redundancies could be the spark that starts an age discrimination inferno.

"With jobs being cut, I'd be very surprised if age discrimination claims weren't in the offing," says Fraser Younson, head of the employment law practice at Berwin Leighton Paisner. "The new laws give people something to hook their disgruntlement on."

Financial News reports that banks are revving up to make more redundancies than at any time since 2002, with Dresdner rumoured to have already started. It will be the first time jobs have been axed since age discrimination laws were introduced in October.

Disgruntled redundant bankers have yet to come forward, however. James Davies, an employment law partner at Lewis Silkin, says a few people have discussed the possibility of making claims, but none have yet filed a case.

If you're made redundant and want to claim age discrimination, Davies says it will help if you can point to a disproportionate number of older employees losing their jobs at your level in the hierarchy. It's not enough, for example, to say that directors are losing their jobs and that age discrimination is at play on the grounds that they're older than first year analysts - you'll need to prove that the axed directors are the oldest in their particular cohort.

Given age discrimination claims bring the prospect of unlimited payouts, Davies suggests banks will employ age profiling techniques to avoid this happening. The head of HR at a US firm confirms this to be the case, "We now look at age profiling in everything we do, whether it's pay, promotions or redundancies."

Anyone bringing a claim may find, unfortunately, that it's not quite as easy as anticipated.

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