Mr Andre confirmed that was the “preference” but said it was not a “rigid rule” and denied there was an “age limit” within the company.
In September 2018, Mr. Andre told the company’s board that Mr. Cowie was not performing well enough in his role and that he had six months to improve.
However, Mr Cowie himself was not informed of this, the tribunal heard.
In October, Mr Cowie moved back to the UK at Mr Andre’s urging. But that same month, an executive search agency was hired to find a possible replacement for him.
The court heard that Mr Andre decided to fire Mr Cowie in February 2019, but did not discuss that decision with him until August 1, 2019, when he told Mr Cowie “it’s not working” and his employment would be terminated.
The tribunal heard Mr Cowie was 58 at the time, while his successor, Karena Cancilleri, was 51, which Vesuvius said showed the under-45 policy was more of a suggestion than a rule.
Following his release, Mr Cowie filed an age discrimination complaint in October 2019.
He said: “Patrick has boldly launched an unlawful campaign to ditch older workers and replace them with workers under the age of 45, according to emails and direct instructions to recruiting companies not to hire workers over 45.
“These blatant written instructions are on record and demonstrate an institutional and deep prejudice against older workers. These comments are direct evidence.”
He said the “old Fossil” comment “tells you everything you need to know about his motivations and stereotypical beliefs about older employees.”
The arbitral tribunal concluded that Mr. Cowie’s complaint about the “old fossil” comment, while discriminatory, was too long ago to be part of his case.
However, it ruled that the remark was “important background” to the rest of his age statements.
The court ruled that he had been unfairly dismissed from Vesuvius and had been discriminated against by the company and Mr Andre on the grounds of age.
At the final court hearing to determine compensation, Mr Cowie said: “It is difficult to fully describe the mental anguish I have endured as a result of treatment by the company.
“It was severe and lasting. I had dedicated 37 years of my life to the company.
“I’ve lost confidence. I felt very down. At the end of 2019 I was suffering from periods of deep depression and anxiety that I have never had before.”
The tribunal awarded him an initial payment including £20,000 for hurt feelings.
A second compensation hearing to determine compensation for the loss of income will be held at a later date.