John & Christina Mongan
(Represented by Martin Egan & Co. Solicitors)
Railway Bar, Roscommon
(Represented by Martin J. Neilan & Co. Solicitors)
John and Christina Mongan 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, the Director then delegated the cases 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
On 20th May 2002 the complainants went into the Railway Bar around 8:40pm. John Mongan went to the bar. When he asked for a drink the barmaid did not respond. He asked again and was again ignored. When he asked what was wrong she told him she was not serving him. Ms. Mongan asked why they were not being served but she was ignored. They asked to use the payphone and asked for the local Gardai number. By the time Ms. Mongan got to the payphone it was switched off. She asked a customer for the local Gardai number and he told her to dial 999 and then starting laughing with the barmaid. The complainants left the pub and called the Gardai who said that this was a matter between them and the publican. The complainants had been in the bar on two previous occasions without any problems. They had been in once with a brother-in-law who was barred.
Summary of the Respondent's Case
The respondent stated that he does not discriminate against anyone. Traveller families use the pub and no directive has been issued not to serve them. The barmaid in question has not worked there for the last two years. The complainants were not known to the respondent. As the respondent was not present on the night of the incident the only explanation that could be offered was that perhaps this was a case of mistaken identity. The manner of the refusal runs counter to company policy and the respondent apologized to the complainants for it.
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
I am satisfied, and the respondent accepted, that the complainants are members of the Traveller community. The refusal of service is not disputed. As no objective reason has been tendered as an explanation for the refusal, I am satisfied that the reason for the refusal is their membership of the Traveller community. I find that the complainants have established a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller ground.
I accept the difficulties facing the respondent in presenting his case without a witness to the incident. However, a suggestion that it may have been mistaken identity is not of itself sufficient to rebut the prima facie case of discrimination. It is noted that the respondent tendered an apology to the complainants on the day of the hearing. I find that the respondent has failed to rebut the prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller ground.
I find that the complainants were discriminated against when refused service in the respondent premises on 20th May 2002. I hereby order the respondent to pay the complainants €300 each.
11th December 2006