102-Year Old Worker Fired “For His Own Good”

I just read a somewhat disturbing article out of Australia.  Folks in the US – pretend that this happened here.

Apparently a Perth University scientist whose career has spanned 70 years, 5 continents, and 130 published works, was “nicely” pushed out the door.


Alleged concerns for his health and wellbeing — he is 102 years old.

My father

He can work at home, allows the University (although he no space for an office at home).  In fact, the school said it would even provide him with his very own computer and printer!  And he can come back for meetings whenever he wants!

(Perhaps I’m showing my age:  This story reminds me of a Little Rascals episode I saw when I was a kid where a truant officer is scaring the waifs with images of breaking rocks at “reform school,” but decides to have some fun with his scary stories.   “Oh, they’re good to you on Christmas,” he says, as they smile with relief — “everyone gets a brand new sledgehammer!”

Businessman Swinging Sledgehammer

At least to me, a computer for a 70-year professor who was severed is every bit as joyful as a new sledgehammer in the TV show).

“According to the University, there are risks associated with Dr Goodall’s travel to and from work as well as concerns for his general wellbeing. Currently, Dr Goodall travels to the Joondalup campus at least four days a week, making the 90-minute commute by catching two buses and a train. Vice-Chancellor Steve Chapman said the institute aims to minimise these risks and had contacted Dr Goodall’s family for its opinion. ‘David will always be welcome at ECU and we will make travel arrangements, at no cost to him, to attend pre-arranged meetings and events,’ Mr Chapman said.”

The school seems a little pleased with its beneficence; his daughter “is appalled.”

The news article noted that the daughter said that the move would rob her father of his independence and mental wellbeing.  “I said it would be the worst thing you (the University) could possibly do, I don’t know if he would survive it.  After everything he has contributed, for them to do that, I’m appalled.”

Takeaway: In the US, the laws would seemingly prohibit this obvious case of age discrimination; as we have seen in the realm of pregnancy and disability discrimination, despite the best intentions, an employer has no business being paternalistic and treating someone adversely “for his own good.”

As long as s/he is qualified to do the job, the inquiry would seem to end there.

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]