Fired CIBC employee a victim of age but not racial discrimination

Fired London banker claimed bank looked after Canadian employees, but tribunal found his age, not his German nationality, was more of a factor

An employment tribunal in the U.K. has disagreed with a former Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) employee who complained he was fired because of his nationality — but still found the employee was dismissed unfairly because of his age.

Achim Beck, a 42-year-old German, was fired from his position in derivatives marketing at CIBC’s offices in London in May 2009 after only two years on the job when the bank closed its derivatives business in London. Beck felt CIBC took better care of Canadian employees whose jobs in London had been cut and filed a complaint for unfair dismissal under the U.K.’s British Race Relations Act. He also filed a complaint of age discrimination after CIBC used a head-hunting firm to recruit new head of European derivatives marketing who had a “younger, entrepreneurial profile.”

The employment tribunal found no evidence Beck had been discriminated against in his firing because he was German, but the age question was a different matter. It found Beck was more likely to stand up to his manager because of his experience and seniority and CIBC’s qualifications for the new position made it likely it was looking for someone the manager could “pull rank” on. However, CIBC should not have specifically looked for someone younger, said the tribunal.

“These were professionals and in the banking world where age and seniority frequently do not go hand in hand, just as age and the willingness to push back also do not necessarily go hand in hand,” said the tribunal.

The tribunal found CIBC couldn’t demonstrate Beck’s age was not a factor in his dismissal and ruled he was unfairly dismissed. It has yet to determine the amount of damages, but Beck’s guaranteed annual bonus while working at CIBC was at least Cdn $1.28 million.

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