Complaint under the Equal Status Act 2000
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 admission to a hotel
DEC – S2005 – 137
Mr. Patrick McCarthy (Represented by Lees Solicitors) V Killarney Avenue Hotel (Represented by Padraig J. O’Connell Solicitors)
Mr. McCarthy 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, the Director then delegated the case to me, Bernadette Treanor, 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.
Summary of the Complainant’s case
While staying with relations over the Christmas period 2001 Mr. McCarthy attended the respondent premises without difficulty on two consecutive nights but on the third, 28/12/2001 he, along with his friends, was refused admission. A number of other Travellers who arrived were also refused admission on that night. Since no reason was given for the refusal Mr. McCarthy is of the opinion that it was based on his membership of the Traveller community. The complainant denied that he had been present in the hotel during an incident which took place two weeks previously.
Summary of the Respondent’s Case
The respondent, the Killarney Avenue Hotel, is a four star hotel. The respondent stated that admission was refused to those identified as having been involved in unacceptable behavior some two weeks previously. No immediate action was taken by the respondent until all of the information about the incident had been gathered and Management had discussed and considered the matter. A decision was taken on 28/12/2001 to refuse admission once to indicate to those involved that the hotel was serious about such unacceptable behaviour and about the retention of its star rating. Admission was refused on 28/12/2001 to members of the group who had been involved in the earlier incident. However other members of the Traveller community were admitted on that night.
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
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 the discriminatory ground (in this case 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 a non-Traveller received, or would have received, in similar circumstances.
If and when those elements are established, the complainant has established a prima facie case and the burden of proof shifts, meaning that the difference in treatment is assumed to be discriminatory on the relevant ground. In such cases the claimant 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.
I am satisfied that the complainant is a member of the Traveller community and it is agreed that he was refused admission and service on 28/12/2001. This satisfies (a) and (b) above.
I am also satisfied that an incident occurred some time shortly before 28/12/2001 where the hotel Management was unhappy with the behaviour of several patrons. I have no reason to doubt the evidence presented that the Security Manager did not have the authority to refuse admission without referring upwards and therefore had to await directions from those who did, leading to a substantial delay between the initial incident and the hotel’s response. It remains in dispute whether the complainant was present during this earlier incident.
I am satisfied that others attending the hotel on 28/12/2001 were refused because of their alleged involvement in the earlier incident. Based on the oral evidence presented I am satisfied that such a refusal would be in keeping with Section 15(1) of the Act. Whether or not the complainant was present at the earlier incident, on 28/12/2001 he was in the company of those being refused. I am satisfied that, in general, when a group of settled people is being refused the group as a whole is refused. Therefore, in my opinion, Mr. McCarthy was not treated less favourably than a settled person would have been in similar circumstances. He has therefore failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller ground.
I find that the Killarney Avenue Hotel did not discriminate against Mr. McCarthy in terms of the Equal Status Act when he was refused admission on 28/12/2001.