RTÉ has commenced a Labour Court appeal against a €100,000 Workplace Relations Commission award to a former employee who claimed age discrimination after being forced to retire at 65.

Anne Roper was an Executive Producer Director in the Factual Content division of RTÉ, who sought to work for a further 18 months after her 65th birthday on 9 July 2018.

Her employment contract did not specify a retirement age, and she argued that she was going to be disadvantaged as the state pension would not be applicable until she turned 66.

However RTÉ argued that a compulsory retirement age was required to create "intergenerational fairness", avoid stagnation, free up promotional opportunities for younger staff, and generate appropriate content to attract younger viewers.

Ms Roper launched a grievance process in early 2018, but RTÉ failed to complete that process before Ms Roper's 65th birthday, when she was forced to retire.

The WRC found that RTÉ had discriminated against Ms Roper on age grounds, and awarded her €100,000.

Opening RTÉ's appeal at the Labour Court, Marguerite Bolger SC described the Roper case as "almost unique".

She said it would rely on intergenerational fairness along with other forms of objective justification for the retirement age, including business and succession planning, and ensuring a mix of generations in the workforce.

She outlined the stagnation of promotional opportunities in the television production area, giving rise to the necessity for employees to retire at 65 to open up opportunities for staff.

She also said actuarial research commissioned by RTÉ had indicated that without a compulsory retirement age, promotional opportunities would fall by 35%.

She acknowledged that there had been significant consequences for Ms Roper financially and in terms of her desire to keep working - but argued that imposing a compulsory retirement age was appropriate and proportionate.

Representing Ms Roper, Padraig Lyons BL said the first key issue was whether or not there was a contractual compulsory retirement age in her contract of employment. 

He said the court must also examine whether there was a potentially legitimate aim being pursued, adding that there was a key distinction between a legitimate social policy aim as opposed to a corporate objective.

He said the next issue was whether or not the imposition of the retirement age was appropriate, necessary and proportionate.

The case will resume tomorrow.