There exists a tension between older and younger generations, which is perhaps no more accentuated than in the competitive world of corporate finance. Multinational bank, Citibank, is currently defending a claim of alleged age discrimination, after a restructure of its London-based energy and natural resources practice in 2017 resulted in the dismissal of its former managing director.
Initially awarded ₤2.7 million by an employment tribunal, the director will need to continue the fight as his former employer, Citibank, successfully had the ruling overturned. An appellate panel in the United Kingdom determined that the case be reheard, ruling that the tribunal had not taken sufficient account of the fact that the director’s replacement was only marginally younger than himself.
The tribunal’s original decision relied on evidence that the director’s supervisor referred to him as “old and set in his ways” and highlighted the need for a person in his position to be more agile. The Citibank supervisor denied making the remarks but the tribunal found that in fact he had. This point of contention was not addressed in the appeal, despite the decision being overruled.
The matter shines a spotlight on the risk of prejudice in the workplace, particularly with respect to age. As organisations encourage innovation in response to a quickly changing marketplace, there is increasing pressure on employees to adapt to new ways of doing things. Many older professionals feel that a creeping culture culture of ageism may be forcing them into early retirement.
The challenges faced by Citibank reflect broader trends occuring throughout corporate finance. In 2020, the global accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, settled a $11.6 million class action discrimination suit. In addition to a settlement shared among 5,000 applicants, the company committed to a program focused on improving outcomes for older entry-level employees.
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