Age should be no barrier, says ombudsman
European Commission officials have been asked to demonstrate by a regulator that they did not discriminate against a 63-year-old woman on the basis of age, when recuiting new staff.
Taking up the case of a Dutch complainant, who applied for a permanent assistant position, the European Ombudsman Paraskevas Nikiforos Diamandouros has invited the commission to respond to the allegations before June 30.
In 2008 - the complainant was successful in a selection competition for assistants, with English as their main language, to work in the European institutions. She was put on the relevant reserve list. At that time, she was 63 years old.
Between February and March 2009, the woman was contacted by several commission services concerning her possible recruitment as an official. Although, she was not offered any posts the complainant was invited to work with the commission on one-week contracts - essentially carrying out the same tasks that she would have undertaken as a full-time member of staff.
In June 2009, the complainant contacted the Ombudsman - alleging that she had been a victim of age discrimination. She stated that, despite many efforts, she did not receive any explanations as to why procedures for her permanent recruitment came to a sudden halt. The complainant added that she had been informed by the commission that she should not expect to be recruited as an official at her age.
Defending its position, the commission stated that it was under no obligation to recruit any candidates from reserve lists. Officials also insisted that there was no sufficient evidence to suggest an oral communication regarding the complainant's age had taken place. The ombudsman pointed out that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits discrimination based on age.
He added that it was down to the commission to"prove that discrimination has not taken place". If unhappy with the commission's response, the ombudsman has the capacity to make a special report to the European Parliament – a mechanism that he has admitted to PublicServiceEurope.com equates to a "naming and shaming exercise".