The Equal Status Acts 2000-2015, prohibit discrimination in the provision of goods and services, the provision of accommodation and access to education, on any of the nine grounds set out below. The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 has inserted a tenth ground in the provision of accommodation only; the “housing assistance” ground. The Acts outlaw discrimination in all services that are generally available to the public whether provided by the state or the private sector. These include facilities for refreshment, entertainment, banking, insurance, grants, credit facilities, transport and travel services. Discrimination in the disposal of premises, provision of accommodation, admission to, access to and conditions of participation in educational courses or establishments are also prohibited subject to some exemptions.
The grounds on which discrimination is outlawed by the Equal Status Acts are as follows:
- ‘the gender ground’
- ‘the civil status ground’ (formerly marital status)
- ‘the family status ground’
- ‘the sexual orientation ground’
- ‘the religion ground’
- ‘the age ground’
- ‘the disability ground’
- ‘the ground of race’ (includes ‘race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins’)
- ‘the Traveller community’ ground
- “the housing assistance” ground (only in the provision of accommodation)
The Acts also prohibit discrimination against a person on the basis of association with another person, acting as a witness on behalf of that other person, giving evidence on their behalf, legally opposing an act which is unlawful under the Acts, or who has given notice of an intention to take any such actions.
Making a Complaint under the Equal Status Acts:
- Before you make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in regard to perceived discrimination or unlawful treatment, you must first send a Notification in writing to the respondent (person/company against whom you are considering the complaint). This notification must contain specific information concerning the alleged discrimination and must be received by the respondent within 2 months after the occurrence of the event in question; in order to assist you with this process, you may use the Equal Status Form ES1 (see link at foot of page). The ES1 form should be sent directly to the respondent, and not to the WRC.
- The Respondent is not obliged to respond to this notification, but may use Form ES2 to do so, if they wish. It should be noted that if the respondent does not reply, or if they provide false or misleading information, an Adjudication Officer may, if appropriate, take account of this when he or she is deciding your case.
- If you have not received a reply from the respondent within one month, or if you are not satisfied with a reply you have received, you can then make a complaint to the WRC using the online Complaint Form available on the 'Refer a Dispute/Make a Complaint' page. A copy of the notification and response should be sent with the complaint form to the WRC. Please note the time limit for making a complaint is within 6 months of the incident you are complaining about (or six months from the last incident, if there have been similar incidents). This may be extended in certain circumstances. (See link at the foot of the page for further explanatory notes)
- Complaints in respect of registered clubs and licensed premises may only be taken in the District Court.
Responding to an ES1 Form or Notification
- If you receive notification from a person(s) alleging that you have discriminated against them under the Equal Status Acts, you can respond to the notice and provide any information sought by the complainant. A response must be in writing, and to assist in this, you may use the Equal Status ES2 Form (see link at foot of page), though this is not mandatory.
- It should be noted that if you do not reply, or if you provide false or misleading information, the adjudication officer may, if appropriate, take account of this when he or she is deciding the case.
- If the complainant does not receive a response from you, or if they are dissatisfied with a response provided, they may then make a complaint to the WRC seeking an adjudication on their case.
What Happens Next?
On receipt of a valid complaint, the WRC will forward a copy to the respondent. The case file will then be allocated to an Adjudication Officer, and an Adjudication Hearing will be arranged; the time, date and venue of which will be notified to the parties involved. The adjudication officer will inquire into the complaint and will provide the parties with an opportunity to be heard by him/her, and to present any relevant evidence. He or she will then make a decision in relation to the complaint, in accordance with the legislation, and will give each party a copy of that decision in writing.
Note - Penalising a person for making a complaint of discrimination or for giving evidence in someone else's complaint or for lawfully opposing unlawful discrimination is called victimisation and the Equal Status Acts specifically protect a person against such victimisation.
You may view or download the relevant Acts or Statutory Instruments (SI's) on the links below.
The Equal Status Acts include:
A 'Restated and Revised' (brings together all amendments and changes in a single text) version of the Equal Status Acts is available from the Law Reform Commission or can be accessed HERE.
SI 349 of 2006 - Circuit Court Rules (Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004) 2006
SI 161 of 2006 - District Court (Equal Status Act 2000) Rules 2006