By David Hunter
JTI Gallagher tobacco plant in Ballymena has discriminated against a 66-year-old member of staff on the grounds of his age.
A tribunal has ruled the company refused to offer him the same redundancy terms as younger staff.
Bernard Barlow (66) worked at the JTI site for 27 years but was excluded from a redundancy scheme when the firm announced it was closing.
It was only available to under 65's because the company hadn't updated its policy around Default Retirement when the government changed legislation in 2011.
Mr Barlow took a case against the firm when they offered him a lesser ammount and began building a case with the equality commission on grounds of age discrimination.
The claimant moved to Northern Ireland to continue working with Gallagher's after originally taking a post at Hyde in Manchester in 1988.
When it closed Mr.Barlow was offered a transfer to Ballymena and moved here with his family.
Mr.Barlow said “It was hurtful and upsetting to be told after all those years of service that I was being treated differently than some colleagues simply because of my age.
"I found it offensive to be excluded from the company’s redundancy scheme just because of my age and it is still distressing when I consider how I have been treated.
"I am grateful to the Equality Commission for its support throughout this difficult process.”
Dr Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, said: “In this decision, the Industrial Tribunal found that Mr Barlow’s claims were well-founded.
"Figures show a definite trend of people over 65 remaining in work since the removal of the Default Retirement Age and given the state pension age continues to increase, this trend is unlikely to change.
"Employers must accept that older workers are entitled to the same consideration as workers of other ages when decisions regarding their contracts, performance standards, continued employment or in this case redundancy are being made."