RTÉ told an American television producer/director there was no point in allowing her to join the company pension scheme because she would only get married or go back to America, the Labour Court was told today.
Anne Roper was awarded €100,000 after the Workplace Relations Commission found that she was discriminated against when RTÉ forced her to retire at 65 in 2018, despite no retirement age being written into her contract.
RTÉ has appealed that award to the Labour Court, and argues that a mandatory retirement age of 65 is essential to ensure inter-generational fairness and open up promotional opportunities for younger staff.
Today was the fourth day at hearing, with evidence already given by a number of RTÉ executives who were involved in grievance procedures invoked by Ms Roper in a failed bid to be allowed to stay on for 18 months beyond RTÉ's proposed mandatory retirement age.
Ms Roper told the Court that she had not been aware that RTE's mandatory retirement age was 65, as she was focused on the fact that her contract was one of "continuous employment" with no retirement age stated.
She said that when she received a letter telling her that she had to retire in 9 months time, she thought it was a mistake.
She pursued a three phase grievance procedure, but failed to stave off her retirement.
She had previously complained to the Pensions Ombudsman in 2005 about not being admitted to the RTÉ Defined Benefit Pension Scheme when she joined RTÉ, after discovering 44 others had been permitted to join before it was closed to new entrants.
Ms Roper alleged she had been told by someone in RTÉ: "You'll get married to some nice man and you won't need a pension, or you will go back to America."
Counsel for RTÉ Marguerite Bolger SC put it to Ms Roper that she must have been aware of the terms of her pension given her complaint to the Ombudsman.
Ms Roper said that she had made that complaint on the basis of gender unfairness, rather than on the basis of the retirement age.
RTÉ outlined a series of correspondence to Ms Roper which it said would have made clear that her retirement age was 65, but Ms Roper said she did not recall receiving some of the documents, and that she had had no interest in pension matters until now.
She said she had seen people still working around her who were 70, but acknowledged all of the cohort of producer/directors with whom she trained in 1991 had already left.
Asked whether it was obvious that there were often farewell parties for people retiring at 65, she said she never went to those events as she was the kind of person who "goes in early, works all day and goes home" - and that such parties were her idea of "hell".
She also outlined a record of successful programmes she had produced, noting that her series "No Country for Women" had secured higher ratings than Love Island when it was broadcast simultaneously on another channel.
She outlined her upset when she discovered her defined contribution pension would deliver a pension of just €12,000, and noted that an unspecified retirement lump sum had been subject to tax in America because she has dual citizenship.
She was questioned about people in lower grades desperate for promotion to the vacancy that would arise when someone like her retired.
She admitted that a researcher would earn between €31,000 and €53,000, while she as a producer/ director would earn over €90,000 with further allowances bringing her salary up to around €100,000.
However, she disputed RTÉ's claim that the retirement of people like her was the only route for people in lower grades to secure promotion, despite counsel for RTÉ pointing out that between 2012 and 2019, only two producer/directors had left voluntarily (without a voluntary exit package or retirement).
She said that not all people in lower grades like researchers and assistant producers wanted promotion, and argued that what was lowering morale and creating resentment was RTÉ bringing in people on short term contracts.
Counsel for RTÉ Marguerite Bolger brought Ms Roper through the age profiles of certain named employees.
A member of the Labour Court, Arthur Hall, interjected to suggest that some of Ms Bolger's questioning could be construed as ageist or sexist.
Ms Bolger responded that she was rarely stuck for words, but that she always pursued her cases in accordance with the instructions of her client, and the code of her profession.
Earlier the Court heard from actuary Shane Wall of Byrne Actuaries who carried out research for RTÉ into the impact of a mandatory retirement age in relation to the promotional and hiring prospects for younger staff.
Mr Wall submitted that each retirement resulted in 3 promotions, but barrister Paraic Lyons for Ms Roper disputed the assumptions on which he based those calculations, pointing out that only one person had been promoted following her retirement.