A 58-year-old worker in the UK has received a near-$6 million payout for age discrimination after he was fired by his younger boss who had earlier labelled him an “old fossil”.

Glenn Cowie was fired from his role as a divisional president at global engineering firm Vesuvius in August 2019.

Following a four-year legal battle, Cowie was found to be unfairly dismissed due to age discrimination and victimisation, with the UK employment tribunal awarding him $5.88 million (3.1 million pounds) in compensation.

It’s one of the largest compensation packages awarded to an unfairly dismissed employee in the UK, and demonstrates the prevalence of age discrimination across a range of industries, particularly in tech.

On his LinkedIn profile, Cowie thanked his barrister Jamie Susskind “who put our argument forward so masterfully and hopefully brought awareness to the tragedy of old people being fired.”

Cowie’s dismissal came 18 months after Vesuvius CEO Patrick Andre had labelled Cowie an “old fossil who doesn’t know how to manage millennials” in a meeting attended by other executives.

‘Old fossil’

The tribunal found that Cowie was fired from the company and replaced by a younger employee after the introduction of a new policy that encouraged managers to not hire anyone aged over 45.

A year-and-a-half before being dismissed, the tribunal heard the CEO also said, “these new millennials will never stop pushing until they have my job and you older guys have to get used to it”.

The employment judge found that the “old fossil” comment was discriminatory but too old to be considered as part of the case, although it made for “important background” for the claims.

“Mr Andre commented negatively on [Cowie’s] age and…he commented negatively on Mr Cowie’s inability to manage younger employees,” the judge said.

“We find it created an intimidating and hostile environment for [him].”

Soon after, Cowie’s boss emailed him saying that new recruits should not be over the age of 45, with an aim of finding people “with enough time left in their career in order to develop”.

During hearings, Andre said that this was merely a “preference” rather than a “rigid rule” and denied that there was an “age ceiling” at his company.

The decision was made to sack Cowie in early 2019, but this was not discussed with him until August that year.

Two months later, Cowie filed a grievance with the employment tribunal alleging he was fired due to age discrimination.

“Patrick has brazenly embarked on an unlawful campaign of getting rid of older employees and replacing them with under 45-year-old staff as per emails and direct instructions to recruiting companies not to employ staff over aged 45,” Cowie said in his case.

“These blatant written instructions are on the record and show an institutional and deep prejudice against older employees.

“These comments are a direct smoking gun.”

The tribunal eventually ruled that Cowie had been unlawfully dismissed and suffered age discrimination at the hands of his former company and boss.

“It is hard to describe fully the mental anguish that I suffered as a result of the company’s treatment,” Cowie said after the decision.

The company continues to deny that Cowie was unlawfully dismissed and will be appealing the decision.


Richard Jones is the co-founder of PrimeL, a platform which helps to place older Australians in part-time, full-time and contract employment.

He said that the UK case demonstrates how prevalent age discrimination is across the workforce.

“Unfortunately, this level of ageism and disrespectful behaviour shown by the CEO, though usually practised more subtly, is quite commonplace in today’s modern workforce,” Jones told Information Age.

“From older staff being passed over for a promotion, moved aside to allow another younger or more culturally ‘visible’ resource to fill a position, mature workers are often overlooked.”

Jones said that there are many misconceptions and assumptions around older workers, particularly in tech.

“Many organisations see the experienced, mature worker as a liability, believing they are not up to date with the latest business and technology trends, don’t fit into the company’s corporate culture, too rigid in their thought process and in tackling change, and often considered too expensive to hire,” Cowie said.

“In reality, I have found these workers tend to be the opposite.

“They usually come from a strong technical or engineering background and are only too aware of the rapid changes in technology, with most undertaking training and obtaining certification of the latest technical trends.”