Ms. Bridget Casey & Ms. Nora Casey (Represented Helen O'Mara BL by John Coke, Solicitors) V Clohessy's Bar (Limerick) (Represented by McMahon O'Brien Downes, Solicitors)
DEC-S2005-178 - 179
Delegation under Equal Status Acts, 2000-2004
The complainant referred a claim to the Director of Equality Investigations on 30th December, 2002 under the Equal Status Acts, 2000 - 2004. In accordance with her powers under section 75 of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and 2004 and under the Equal Status Acts, 2000 - 2004, the Director then delegated the case to me, Marian Duffy, 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 Acts, 2000 - 2004 on 29th August 2005. The hearing took place on 27th October 2005.
1.1 The dispute concerns a claim by Bridget Casey and Nora Casey that they were discriminated against by Clohessy's Bar on the ground that they are members of the Traveller Community in that they were refused a service which is generally available to the public. The complainants allege that the respondent discriminated against them in terms of Sections 3(1)(a), and 3(2)(i) of the Equal Status Act, 2000 contrary to Section 5(1) of that Act.
2 Summary of the Complainants' Case
2.1 The complainants' case is that they entered the respondent's premises at about 2pm on 22 January 2002 with the intention of having lunch. They enquired from a waitress if lunch was still being served and if they could have a lunch menu. The waitress said that she would check to if lunch was still being served. The complainants said that a man approached them and informed them that they would not be served and they were then requested to leave and were not given any reason for the refusal of service.
2.2 The complainants said that they had been regular customers in the pub and night club up until then. They said that they had no difficulty in getting in getting served until they were identified as Travellers. They allege that they were identified to the staff by two Gardaí who they know about a week prior to the 22nd January 2002. Ms. Bridget Casey said that she works in the Limerick Travellers Development Project and she complained by letter (copy produced at the hearing together with an acknowledgement from the Gardaí) about the behaviour of three named Gardaí, including these two Gardaí, to the Superintendent in July 2001. Ms. Bridget Casey said that she arranged to meet Mr. Brian Smith, one of the owners of the pub, the following day to discuss why they were refused service. 22nd January. She said that Mr. Smith refused to give her a reason and told her that "your type is not welcome here". They complainants said that they tried to get into the pub on a number of occasions after this and each time they were refused. They submitted that they were refused service because the respondent and his staff knew they were Travellers. They denied that they had caused any trouble outside the night club in October 2001 or that they produced false identification in May 2002. They said that they had no need to produce age identification as they were both in their mid twenties.
3. Summary of the Respondent's Case
3.1 The respondent denied that there was any discriminatory treatment and submitted that the complainants had caused trouble at the door of the nightclub sometime in late October or early November 2001 and hence the reason for the refusal of service on 22 January 2002. The respondent's case is that the complainants were in a group of about 10 people outside the night club and some of the group was arguing amongst themselves. Mr. Seamus Kenny, Security Manager, said that he asked the group to step aside and some of them threatened him. He identified the complainants because he knew them as customers. He said that the complainants tried to stop other customers from getting into the night club but were not threatening to him.
The respondent stated that the complainants were refused on 22nd January by Mr. Donal O'Sullivan, manager, who stated that the complainants caused a scene when they were informed that lunch was no longer being served that afternoon. They also submitted that Ms. Bridget Casey produced false identification to the security staff in May 2002.
3.2 Mr. Seamus Kenny said that the complainant's behaviour did not warrant permanent exclusion from the premises. He said that his normal practice is to talk to customers who have caused a scene and if they provide an explanation and apologise for the incident the customer is allowed back in. Mr. Peter Clohessy a partner in the pub said that customers are barred if they are engaged in drug activities or physical violence, but if the incident is not too serious customers are allowed back following an apology. He said that he and Mr Smith, his business partner, decided that because of the incident in October that the complainants would not be allowed back to the premises.
4 Conclusions of the Equality Officer
4.1 Having considered all the evidence presented to me, I am of the view that overall the evidence of the complainants was on balance more convincing that presented by the respondent. I note from the evidence of the respondent's witnesses that the incident in which they believed the complainants were involved did not warrant their permanent exclusion from the premises and could be resolved if the complainants had tendered an apology. However Mr. Clohessy stated that a decision was taken that the complainants would not be allowed back in. I note that the complainants stated that they were in the respondent's premises a number of times after the October 2002 disputed incident up until the refusal on 22nd of January. I also note that it was agreed that the complainants sought entry to the premises on a number of occasions subsequent to this date and they were refused. I note that Mr. O' Sullivan told the complainants that they would not be served on the premises but did not tell them his reason for refusing them service nor did he inform them that they should apologise for their behaviour in the past despite a request from the complainants for the reasons for the refusal.
4.2 I am satisfied on the respondent's own evidence that the complainants did not fall within the category of customers who would be permanently excluded from the premises yet Mr. O'Sullivan told them that they would not be served. I am satisfied that the respondent departed from his stated policy in relation to serving customers who had previously been involved in an incident. I have therefore concluded that the complainants were treated less favourably than a non-Traveller would have been treated in similar circumstances. I find that the complainants have established prima facie cases of discriminatory treatment on the Traveller community ground which the respondent has failed to rebut.
5.1 On the basis of the foregoing I find that the complainants were discriminated against by the respondent on the Traveller community ground contrary to Section 3(1) and 3(2)(i) of the Equal Status Act, 2000 and in terms of Section 5(1) of that Act. I order Clohessy's Bar to pay the complainants, Ms. Bridget Clohessy (DEC-S2005-178), and Ms. Nora Casey (DEC-S2005-179) the sum of €200 for the effects of the discrimination and the loss of the amenity to them. I note that Mr. Clohessy stated at the hearing that the complainants would be welcome back to the premises, I therefore order the respondent to issue a written invitation to them and to provide one free meal each and drink to them.
30th November, 2005