Four Seasons Bar
(Represented by Downing, Courtney & Larkin, Solicitors)
Teresa McCarthy referred a claim to the Director of Equality Investigations under the Equal Status Act 2000 in respect of an incident which allegedly took place on 13th June 2003. 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, on 20th April 2007 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
The complainant entered the respondent premises at around 10:45pm on 13th June 2003. She was with two friends and they had been in the complainant's local pub for one drink when they decided to go into town for a few drinks. She and her friends were left standing at the bar for about five minutes. When she asked for a drink she was asked to leave the bar. She asked for a reason and was not given one. She was not asked about being in the bar before. The complainant works with one of the respondent's Traveller locals and alleges that the respondent has been serving the same few Travellers for 20 years. The information included by the complainant in her notification to the respondent is as above. She lodged her first complaint form with the Tribunal on 18th July 2003. She lodged her second on 21st July 2003 enclosing a letter of response from the respondent to her dated 15th July 2003. On her second complaint form the complainant stated that the alleged conversation about whether or not she had previously been in the pub did not take place.
Summary of the Respondent's Case
The respondent agrees that on 13th June 2003 the complainant entered the bar with friends. He believed her to be someone who had previously been in the bar and who on one occasion had caused some difficulties by breaking glasses. In his response to the notification he stated that he asked her if she had been in before and she replied that she had. He told her he could not serve her but did not ask her to leave. In his oral evidence he stated that in response to her order he told her he wasn't serving her because of the problems he had had with her before. When she asked him why he said "Sorry I'm not serving you" and walked away.
The respondent's representative argued that it is irrelevant whether or not the previous incident had occurred. What was at issue was that the respondent believed that the complainant had previously caused difficulties and that the refusal was based on his recollection of the previous incident rather than on her membership of the Traveller community. It would be very unusual if there were no Traveller customers given where the pub is situated.
Conclusions of the Equality Officer
I am satisfied that the complainant is a member of the Traveller community. It is agreed that she was refused service in June 2003.
The complainant responded immediately to the respondent's response dated 15th July 2003 indicating that the conversation about her previously being in the pub never took place. With regard to whether or not this conversation took place I find the complainant's version of events more compelling and I find that no reason was given for the refusal. However, whether or not a reason is given for a refusal does not, of itself, indicate discrimination. Reasons are often not given where it is considered that giving a reason might antagonize the customer perhaps because they have already had too much to drink. In such situations the customer's reaction may be unpredictable. In this case there are no allegations as to the amount of alcohol already consumed by the complainant and her friends.
It appears therefore that the complainant and her companions were not drunk; they were refused but they were not given a reason why. I do not accept that non-Travellers would be treated in a similar manner. I find that the complainant has established a prima facie case of discrimination on the Traveller ground.
The respondent wishes to rely on Section 15 of the Acts in order to rebut the claim. The respondent has consistently indicated his consideration of previous difficulties with the complainant although no evidence has been presented to indicate whether or not such an incident took place. While it is correct to say that a respondent's belief that there is a substantial risk of disorderly conduct may provide a rebuttal in accordance with the Section, I am not sufficiently satisfied, based on the evidence presented, that such a belief was held by the respondent in this case in order to remove the burden of proof. I find that the respondent has failed to rebut the prima facie case of discrimination.
I find that the respondent discriminated against the complainant on the Traveller ground when she was refused service on 13th June 2003. I hereby order the respondent to pay the complainant €500 for the effects of the discrimination.
3rd August 2007