Mr James Connolly Vs Kennedy Security Company
File No's: EE/2004/130
Date of Issue : 18 November, 2005
The dispute concerns a complaint that Kennedy Security Company (the respondent) discriminated against Mr James Connolly (the complainant) on the grounds of his gender and religion, contrary to the provisions of Sections 8 of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 when he applied for a security officer position with the company.
2.1 The complainant, who is male and wears a beard which he describes as 'well trimmed', attended an interview for the position of security officer with the respondent security company on 5th February, 2004. The complainant states that he was told that his beard would not suit the respondent's client's corporate image and that he would have to shave it off. The complainant contends that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his gender and religious belief contrary to the 1998 Act.
2.2 The complainant referred a complaint to the Director on 3rd June, 2004. In accordance with her powers under section 75 of the 1998 Act, the Director delegated the case to an Equality Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part VII of the Act on 3rd March, 2005 and submissions were sought from both parties. The Equality Officer to whom the complaint had been delegated requested for personal reasons that the case be delegated to another Equality Officer and the Director delegated the case to Raymund Walsh on 6th May, 2005. The Tribunal consented to the re-scheduling of a hearing of the complaint scheduled for 22nd July, 2005 in exceptional circumstances at the complainant's request and the hearing was later held on 11th November, 2005.
3. SUMMARY OF THE CLAIMANT'S CASE:
3.1 The complainant gave evidence that having responded to a newspaper advertisement he attended at the respondent security company for interview for the position of security officer on 5th February, 2004. He states that as soon as the proprietor saw him he told him that he would have to shave off his beard as it "would not go with his client's corporate image". He complained that this was a discriminatory remark and states that the interviewer then changed his demeanor. They then had a 'chat' about a mutual acquaintance before another person entered his details on a form. He never heard from the company again.
3.2 The complainant states that he previously worked for five years as a security officer, three of which were with the national railway company before he was made redundant and all the time he wore a beard. The complainant believes that his beard was the sole reason why he was not employed by the respondent. As only men wear beards the complainant believes that he was discriminated against on the grounds of his gender. He also states that men may wear beards for reasons of religious belief and that the treatment complained of amounts to discrimination on the religious belief ground.
4. SUMMARY OF RESPONDENT'S CASE:
4.1 The respondent refutes the allegation that the wearing of a beard was the reason for the complainant's unsuccessful job application and argues in any event that discrimination related to the wearing of a beard could not constitute discrimination within the meaning of the 1998 Act. Referring to Rotunda Hospital v Gleeson , the respondent argues that the onus is on the complainant to produce prima facie evidence of discrimination on the gender and religious belief grounds. The respondent states that the complainant has failed to present any evidence of discrimination on the grounds of gender. The respondent also states that at no stage did the complainant make the respondent aware of his religious belief or faith and states that any complaint of discrimination on the grounds of religious belief is similarly unsustainable.
4.2 The respondent rejects the complainant's recollection of what happened at the interview. Mr Kennedy senior, the proprietor of the company, states that the interview was initially conducted by his son and another member of the company management. As he likes to meet all prospective employees he entered the room and spoke to the complainant about company standards in relation to dress code and neat appearance. The complainant becamed agitated and asked him if he had a problem with his beard and said that that was discrimination. The respondent states that the complainant himself brought up the issue of his beard and not the interview board. The respondent states that the complainant's beard was never an issue with the company and that it employs several security officers who wear beards. At the hearing the respondent presented copies of the identity cards of several security officers who wore beards. The respondent states that the primary reason why the complainant was not offered a position with the company was his agitated demeanor at the interview.
5. CONCLUSIONS OF THE EQUALITY OFFICER:
5.1 The matter for consideration is whether or not the respondent discriminated against the complainant on the gender ground in terms of Section 6(2)(a) and the religious belief ground in terms of Section 6(2)(e) of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 contrary to Section 8 of that Act. In making my decision I have taken into account all of the evidence, both written and oral, made to me by the parties to the case.
5.2 I note that the Equality Officer in Dempsey v Superquinn found that a requirement to shave off one's beard would not be made of a woman and was therefore discriminatory. I note on the other hand that the Employment Appeal Tribunal, Scotland in Singh v Rowntree Mackintosh Ltd upheld an industrial tribunal finding that the complainant, an orthodox Sikh who wore a beard, was not discriminated against contrary to the Race Relations Act, 1976 when he was informed by the respondent that he would have to shave off his beard for hygiene reasons if offered a position at the food company.
5.3 While there was some conflict of evidence in the present case in relation to who raised the matter of the complainant's beard at the interview, I am persuaded by the evidence presented by the respondent that it employs security officers who wear beards and that it would have had no difficulty with the complainant's beard. While the complainant challenged the respondent's version of events at the hearing he was unable to recall which member of the interview board said that he would have to shave off his beard. When a discussion took place at the hearing in relation to his previous employment and references he was unable to recall whether or not he was working at the time of the interview. When asked at the hearing the complainant stated that he did not practice any particular religion and did not wear a beard as a result of a religious belief other than his belief that a man had a God given right to wear a beard if he wanted to. I am satisfied on the evidence presented that the complainant has failed to adduce any prima facie evidence of discrimination on the gender or religious belief grounds.
6.1 On the basis of the foregoing, I find that Kennedy Security did not discriminate against the complainant on the gender or religious belief grounds in terms of Section 6(2) of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and contrary to the provisions of Section 8 of that Act.
18 November, 2005