William Reilly (Represented by Clondalkin Citizen's Information Centre) V Jury's Doyle Hotel Group PLC, Dublin (Represented by Mr. Frank Beatty, B.L., acting on instructions from Vincent & Beatty, Solicitors)
DECISIONS NO: DEC-S2005-173
File No. ES/2002/0918
Date of Issue 17/11/2005
Equal Status Act, 2000 - Direct discrimination, Section 3(1)(a) - Traveller Ground, Section 3(2)(i) - Disposal of goods and supply of services, Section 5(1) - Prima facie case.
1.1 This dispute concerns a claim by William Reilly that on 13 August 2002, he was treated in a discriminatory manner by a member of the respondent's staff. The complainant 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 this and other relevant functions of the Director under Part III of the Equal Status Act.
2. Summary of Complainants' Case
2.1 The complainant states in his written complaint that he was treated in a discriminatory manner by a member of the respondent's staff on 13 August 2002 when he attended at the respondent premises with his wife. The complainant was approached and asked to finish his drink and leave as he was recognised by a member of staff as having previously been involved in an incident on the premises. The complainant states that the refusal was made in the presence (on the premises) of a number of people with whom he was acquainted and that he was embarrassed by the manner of the refusal.
In the absence of any further explanation for the refusal the complainant feels that he was refused because of his membership of the Traveller community.
3. Summary of Respondent's Case
3.1 The respondent denies that discrimination occurred and states that the complainant was asked to leave because he had previously been involved in an incident on the premises when he was part of a group who refused to leave at closing time and the Gardaí had to be called by the staff of the premises.
4 Prima Facie Case
4.1. I must first consider whether the existence of a prima facie case has been established by the complainant. Section 38A(1) of the Equal Status Act 2000 (as amended by the Equality Act 2004) states that
"Where in any proceedings facts are established by or on behalf of a person from which it may be presumed that prohibited conduct has occurred in relation to him or her it is for the respondent to prove the contrary".
Section 38A(2) states that
"This section is without prejudice to any other enactment or rule of law in relation to the burden of proof in any proceedings which may be more favourable to the person".
5. Prima Facie Case - Complainant
5.1 The complainant is a member of the Traveller community and this is not disputed by the respondent. It is common case that the complainant was asked to leave the respondent premises on 13 August 2002.
5.2 I regard the following as the relevant in determining whether the complainant has established facts from which it may be presumed that prohibited conduct, specifically discrimination on the Traveller ground, has occurred in relation to him.
- Both parties gave evidence that Travellers regularly attend at the respondent premises.
- Both parties referred to the attendance at the premises on an ongoing, but irregular, basis of the complainant, prior to an incident arising in March 2002.
- The respondent gave evidence of an incident arising on a particular night in March 2002 whereby a group of people, including the complainant, had behaved in a loud and boisterous manner and had been repeatedly spoken to in the course of the evening by staff of the respondent premises. At closing time the same group of people had refused to leave the premises and it had been necessary for the Gardaí to be called to get the group to leave. They eventually left the premises at 1.15 a.m at the request of the Gardaí. At the Hearing of this complaint the manager on duty on the night in question identified Mr. Reilly as having been a member of the group in question and stated that she had subsequently refused service to Mr. Reilly and any other member of the group who subsequently attended at the premises and was recognised as having been part of the group in question.
- The complainant confirmed that he, and he alone, was taken aside and asked to leave the premises on the evening of 13 August 2002, that none of his companions in a group of circa thirty Travellers was asked to leave. He was told by the staff member who approached him that he could finish his drink and then leave.
- The complainant stated that on the night of the alleged incident in March 2002 he was not at the respondent premises but was, in fact, at another premises in another part of Dublin. The complainant could not produce evidence to this effect at the Hearing but stated that he remembered the night in question because he was visiting Dublin on business on that date. He "heard talk" on the Traveller site the following morning about an incident at the respondent premises the previous night. The complainant could not recall any other dates in 2002 on which he travelled to Dublin on business, but stated that he had travelled to Dublin on a number of occasions after March 2002.
5.3 In light of the above and having carefully considered all of the evidence presented in this matter I am satisfied that the complainant was refused service in good faith on the basis that he was recognised by a member of the respondent's staff as having been involved in an earlier incident on the premises. The request to leave the respondent premises was a direct result of his being associated by the respondent's staff with the previous incident of unacceptable behaviour. The complainant was not refused because he is a Traveller or because he was being associated with Travellers but because he was being associated with the unacceptable behaviour of the group who attended at the respondent premises in March 2002. I am satisfied that non-Travellers would be refused service in the same or similar circumstances.
5.4 The complainant stated that he feels that there is a case of mistaken identity in this matter. Even were this so, the outcome would remain the same as the respondent staff would be mistaking the complainant for somebody who had behaved in an unacceptable manner, irrespective of his Traveller identity.
5.5 I am satisfied that the complainant has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller ground.
6.1 I find that the complainant was 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.
17 November, 2005