Score One For the Good Guys

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If you thought an employer can never be held accountable for replacing a worker based on age discrimination, here's good news. A UK employment tribunal in December found Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce liable for carrying out a deliberate plan to replace its London derivatives marketing team with a younger bunch during 2008.

Achim Beck, a 42-year old senior derivatives salesman who joined CIBC in January 2007 at 125,000 ($200,000 at Tuesday's exchange rate) base plus one-year bonus guarantee of 775,000 ($1.24 million), won his age discrimination claim against CIBC. Damages will be determined later.

The ruling - if it doesn't get overturned on appeal - suggests cynics were wrong to think mechanisms for countering age discrimination in the UK carry even less punch than their notoriously toothless U.S. counterparts.

Management Lied About Process, Memo Showed

The London South Employment Tribunal found that CIBC management showed "complete disregard for the truth" and used a "sham" redundancy process to disguise their effort to replace Beck with someone younger.

He and several members of his derivatives marketing team were let go in May 2008. "But the tribunal found that CIBC had already drafted a plan to rebuild the business with new hires and was in the process of consulting head hunters," the Financial Times reports. An internal memo revealed that management explicitly sought a new head of derivatives marketing who would have a "younger, entrepreneurial profile."

Aside from the age angle, the case drew attention in the UK and Canada because Beck, a German national, also claimed the Canadian bank had treated him less favorably than Canadian colleagues. The tribunal did not substantiate that claim.

There is no cap on damages for age or race discrimination in UK employment cases. In contrast, UK law caps damages for ordinary unfair dismissal at a token 65,000 ($104,000).

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