William Corcoran, Martin Maughan & Patrick Stokes -v- Farleigh Ltd., t/a The Quays Bar, Dublin
Equal Status Act, 2000 - Direct discrimination, section 3(1)(a) - Membership of the Traveller community, Section 3(2)(i) - Disposal of goods and supply of services, Section 5(1) - Refusal of service in a pub – Prima Facie case.
1.1 This dispute concerns claims by William Corcoran, Martin Maughan and Patrick Stokes that they were discriminated against by the respondent, contrary to the Equal Status Act, 2000, on the grounds that they are members of the Traveller community in that on 11 June, 2002, they were refused service in the respondent premises. The respondent denies that discrimination occurred.
The complainants each referred a claim to the Director of Equality Investigations under the Equal Status Act 2000. In accordance with her powers under section 75 of the Employment Equality Act 1998 and under the Equal Status Act 2000, the Director then delegated the case to me, Dolores Kavanagh, an Equality Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part III of the Equal Status Act.
2 Summary of Complainant’s Case.
2.1 The complainants state that they went to The Quays Bar on the afternoon of 11 June, 2002. They were refused entry to the premises on the basis that they had enough alcohol consumed. It is the complainant’s belief that they were refused service because of their Traveller status.
3. Summary of Respondent’s Case
3.1 The respondent denies that discrimination occurred and states that the complainants were refused entry in good faith, in accordance with the requirements of the Licensing Acts because it was deemed that they had sufficient drink taken at that time.
The complainants state that they met up and went to Temple Bar on 11 June, 2002. They were going to watch the screening of an international soccer match featuring the Irish national team in a nearby public house (named). They watched the match and each consumed between 3-5 pints. Following the match at circa 4 p.m. they decided to go to the respondent premises nearby for something to eat and to experience the atmosphere there. It was their intention to visit a number of pubs to enjoy the atmosphere of the occasion to its fullest. There was a very jubilant atmosphere in the area in general and the streets were thronged with fans celebrating an Irish win in the match. The complainants were also jubilant but behaved in exactly the same manner as all other fans. They were dressed in Irish soccer gear and did not stand out in any way from the crowds of excited fans.
When they reached the door of the respondent premises they commented to the doormen about the Irish win. The doorman then stopped them from entering and said “you can’t go in you have had too much to drink”. The complainants protested and Mr. Corcoran called the Gardaí. When a Garda arrived at the premises he spoke to the complainants and stated that, in his opinion, they, the complainants, were behaving in a professional manner and that he believed that they had had a few drinks but were not a danger in any way to the public.
The complainants saw others enter the premises without being stopped some of whom were drunk. These people were not stopped from entering by the doormen. The complainants believe that the doormen recognised their accents as Traveller accents and denied them entry to the premises on that basis.
At the Hearing of these complaints the complainants provided a copy letter from the Garda Station, Pearse Street . This appears to be a reply from the Gardaí to a letter from a named gentleman whom the complainants identified as their solicitor. The latter had written to the Gardaí on their behalf. The Garda letter states that the complainants attended at Pearse Street Garda Station (no date given) to complain about not being allowed into a premises (unnamed) on a date (not provided) because they were “too drunk”. The Garda who spoke with them in the station had told them that this was a civil matter between them and the manager of the premises in question. The letter further states that the complainants insisted that the Garda form an opinion to the effect that they were not “too drunk”. The Garda replies by saying that in his opinion they did not appear to be intoxicated to the extent that they may endanger themselves or others contrary to Section 4 of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994. However he stressed that it was obvious that they had consumed alcohol and that this was his opinion only and that other people were entitled to have different opinions. He also informed them that “too drunk” was a relative term whereby it could be viewed differently. The Garda had no further discussions with the complainants.
The complainants explained that they had gone to Pearse Street Garda Station on the evening of 11 June 2002 to follow up on the matter of the refusal and that their solicitor had written to the Gardaí seeking information in relation to their attendance at the Station. The solicitor in question did not represent the complainants at the Hearing and no other documentation was produced by the complainants.
In written material submitted prior to the Hearing of these complaints the respondent stated that the doormen who refused entry to the complainants did so in good faith on the basis of their experience in the trade. They had formed the opinion that the complainants had already had too much to drink. Following the refusal the three complainants had become aggressive and stated that they would be taking a case through the Equality Authority and left.
Neither of the doormen who were on duty on the day in question was in attendance at the Hearing of these complaints as they are currently abroad and unable to return for the Hearing. Copy statements from the doormen were submitted on behalf of the respondent. The manager of the premises who was present on the day in question attended at the Hearing but was unable to state what precisely had passed between the doormen and the complainants as he had not heard any of the conversation on the day. However he provided his opinion of what had happened based on what he saw from nearby on the day. He saw the doormen stop the complainants from entering and it was his opinion that the complainants then became aggressive from what he could see. The doormen dealt with the matter quickly and efficiently.
The manager explained that a number of people were refused entry to the premises on the day in question because the doormen formed the opinion that they were drunk. The doormen had worked in the premises for a number of years and were employed directly by the bar, not via a security firm. They were very experienced and professional in their work and the manager relied on their professional approach to prevent people who were drunk or troublesome from gaining entry to the bar.
The manager had watched the complainants as they left the vicinity of the premises and saw them approach another premises nearby. They were refused entry to that premises also, but the manager does not know why in that instance. He is aware that they were turned away from a third premises (named) for the same reason as they were turned away from the Quays Bar i.e that they had had too much to drink.
The respondent does not operate a policy of discrimination against any category of person and has served, and will continue to serve, members of the Traveller community.
5 Prima Facie Case
5.1 At the outset, I must first consider whether the existence of a prima facie case has been established by the complainant. There are three key elements which need to be established to show that a prima facie case exists. These are:
(a ) Applicability of a discriminatory ground (e.g. the Traveller ground)
(b) Evidence of specific treatment of the complainant by the respondent
(c) Evidence that the treatment received by the complainants was less
favourable than the treatment someone, not covered by that ground, would have received in the same, or similar circumstances.
5.2 If and when those elements are established, the burden of proof shifts, meaning that the difference in treatment is assumed to be discriminatory on the relevant ground. In such cases the complainant does not need to prove that there is a link between the difference and the membership of the ground, instead the respondent has to prove that there is not. If they succeed in establishing prima facie evidence, the burden of proof then shifts to the respondent to rebut the inference of discrimination.
6 Prima Facie Case - Complainants
6.1 The complainants are Travellers and this is not disputed by the respondent. This fulfils (a) at 5.1 above. It is common case that the complainants were refused entry to the respondent premises. This fulfils (b) at 5.1 above. In relation to key element (c) above the complainants have clearly indicated and accept that they had had a number of drinks before attending at the respondent premises. They were dressed and were behaving in an identical manner to thousands of other enthusiastic fans and there was nothing that differentiated them from those around them. They exchanged one or two words with the doormen of the respondent premises on foot of which the complainants state that they were recognized as Travellers because of their distinctive accent. I am not satisfied on balance that that was the case.
6.2 The complainants had drink taken, and while they feel that they had not had too much to drink this is entirely subjective. I am satisfied that the doormen acted in good faith in refusing entry to the complainants on the day in question. There was nothing that called attention to the complainants other than the fact that they had a quantity of alcohol consumed. I am not satisfied that the doormen could recognize the complainant’s accent as being Traveller accents simply from the exchange of one or two words in an atmosphere described by both parties in this matter as “extremely loud” , “jubilant”, with crowds “chanting in the streets” etc.
6.3 On balance I am not satisfied that the complainants were treated less favourably than non-Travellers were, or would have been, in the same circumstances. The complainants have not satisfied key element (c) above and have not therefore established a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller community ground.
7.1 I find that the complainants were not discriminated against on the Traveller community ground contrary to Section 3(1) and 3(2)(i) of the Equal Status Act and in terms of Section 5(1) of that Act. The finding is in favour of the respondent.
1 February, 2005