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Hurtful job rejection email not age discrimination: QIRC

A real estate firm principal’s email advising a job seeker that if they had a position to offer, they would want “someone younger and more tech savvy’’, did not constitute an act of discrimination, an industrial commissioner has found.

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission in Brisbane recently dismissed Marian Grimsey’s complaint of “direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of age or sex’’ against Paul Flynn – and his firm the Paul Flynn Property Group – in November 2018.

Ms Grimsey – a licensed real estate agent with many years’ experience – alleged she had been discriminated against on the basis of age – when she attempted to secure employment with Mr Flynn’s firm.

Industrial Commissioner Jacqueline Power, in a 21-paged decision published on Friday (11 Feb), said both Ms Grimsey and Mr Flynn were known to each other and had professional dealings due to their employment in the real estate industry for almost 10 years.

“They had friends in common and would see each other at professional events however did not have a social relationship outside their professional association,’’ Commissioner Power said.

“Following a meeting between the (pair) on 13 November 2018, (Mr Flynn) sent an email to (Ms Grimsey). The conduct of the (Mr Flynn) during this meeting and content of the email is the subject of the complaint alleging contravention of the AD (Anti-Discrimination) Act.’’

Ms Power said two days after the meeting Mr Flynn sent Ms Grimsey an email saying:

“Hi Maria,

I talked to Julie and we both agree. We don’t have anything to offer you at the moment. Even if we did we feel we would want to goneith (sic) someone younger and more tech savey (sic).

Thanks for thinking if (sic) us

Paul (angel emoji)’’

The Commissioner said Mr Grimsey promptly replied to Mr Flynn via email, saying:

“Ha Ha thank you Paul.

I notice u (sic) definitely need someone tech savvy! So many spelling mistakes in one short email. Hilarious!

I also hope it comes back to bit Ms Julie on her royal arse that someone would be judged by a photo.

I’m an excellent sales person that has depth of experience, can sell, could run rentals & I am well liked. “Tech savvy” (spelt correctly young Paul) doesn’t equate to money. I appreciate there is not (sic) position open currently.

I do however thank you for decency of reply. I’m left not feeling good about myself. Perhaps there is a lesson there for both of you, dare I try to train “younger people”.

Paul, I have enjoyed our business over the years.

Kind Regards, Marian Grimsey

Ms Grimsey subsequently filed a complaint in the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland (ADCQ) alleging direct and indirect discrimination on the basis of age and unlawful request for information.

Ms Power said the matter was referred to her for adjudication by the ADCQ after an unsuccessful attempt at conciliation between the parties.

Ms Grimsey’s complaint was subsequently dismissed, with Ms Power saying the use of “hurtful words’’ in an email by Mr Flynn did not – in the circumstances of the case – constitute an act of discrimination.

“I have carefully considered all of the evidence in this matter and determined that (Mr Flynn) did not contravene (sections 6 or 24) of the AD Act,’’ Ms Power said.

“I note (Ms Grimsey’s) compelling evidence regarding the impact of (Mr Flynn’s) email on her mental health. I accept that (Ms Grimsey) felt upset, humiliated and distressed by (Mr Flynn’s) email.

“However … it is not the use of hurtful words that is proscribed by the AD Act, but rather the act of discrimination.

“The conduct, although in my view entirely inappropriate, … cannot be considered prohibited discrimination.’’

Read the decision.

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