A $500,000 age discrimination claim brought by a former waiter against celebrity chef Guy Grossi goes to mediation this week.
Cosimo Tedesco has filed an age discrimination claim at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal after departing Grossi’s flagship restaurant Grossi Florentino.
Grossi claims Tedesco quit, but the employee of 15 years says he was forced out of his role so someone “young and strong” could front the restaurant.
According to the Herald Sun, Tedesco says he was demoted, while Grossi maintains the former host was not pushed aside but was promoted to more senior duties such as managing events and “operationally critical” functions.
Tedesco had attracted warnings and complaints over various alleged incidents, including a wine theft and a suspected failure to pool tips with other staff.
But tensions came to a head when Tedesco allegedly refused to serve a table of customers linked to the Victoria Racing Club.
Grossi claims the incident around the time of Melbourne Cup week was key as the customers were “regarded as especially important to the trading of the restaurant at that time of the year”.
The Herald Sun reports Tedesco is seeking up to $500,000 compensation, which includes money he is expected to earn if he stayed at the restaurant until his retirement.
If the mediation fails, a hearing in June is expected to last about 10 days and hear from about 20 witnesses.
Carita Kazakoff, associate in Slater & Gordon’s industrial and employment law practice, told SmartCompany a claim of $500,000 “is probably unusual” in these type of cases but “every case depends on the circumstances”.
Kazakoff says numerous factors can feed into compensation awards including the nature of the conduct alleged; the nature of the circumstances in which the person has left; if they have left their employment; and the circumstances the person now faces in trying to find work.
“As a general proposition it’s against the law for employers to discriminate against people because of their age, that means you can’t refuse to give someone a job just because of their age,” she says.
When looking for prospective employees it is not acceptable to ask about their age, Kazakoff says. But if it is a requirement of the job, it may be acceptable to ask things such as whether the potential employee can do interstate trips or overnight stays.
“Common cases [of age discrimination] might include more mature workers being denied promotions or training opportunities offered to younger employees or being more of a target in redundancies,” she says.
“It’s become a more prominent issue now because the proportion of workers aged over 55 is increasing because we have an ageing population.”
Grossi declined to comment.
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