Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2008
EQUALITY OFFICER’S DECISIONS NO:
(Represented by Mr. Buttenshaw BL instructed by Mr. Woods, Orpen Franks Solicitors)
File No. ES/2005/0685
Date of Issue: 3 November 2008
Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004– Discrimination, section 3(1) – Gender ground, section 3(2)(a) – Sexual Orientation ground, section 3(2)(d) - Disability ground, section 3(2)(g) – Reasonable accommodation, section 4 - Provision of accommodation, section 6(1)(c) – Victimisation, section 3(2)(j)
1. Delegation under the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004
1.1. A complainant referred a claim on 26 October 2005 to the Director of the Equality Tribunal under the Equal Status Act 2000. In accordance with her powers under section 75 of the Employment Equality Act, 1998, the Director then delegated the case to me, Tara Coogan, 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 The investigation under section 25 into this matter began on13 March 2008. A hearing was held 23 July 2008.
2.1. Ms. Mary M. Dalton (“the complainant”) claims she was treated unlawfully over a number of years (since 1996) on the grounds of her gender, sexual orientation and disability by her then landlord, Mr. John Glynn (“the respondent”) when he victimised her contrary to section 3(2)(j) of the Acts. The complainant maintains that this unlawful conduct was carried out by the respondent who was attempting to injure her health, finances and accommodation situation by involving legal representatives, male tenants, his son, his brother and his father. She also claims that the respondent perjured himself at a Private Residential Tenancies Board hearing. She also maintains that the respondent refused to provide her with reasonable accommodation in accordance with section 4. The complainant maintains that the last act of discrimination in relation this claim was on 29 July 2005. The respondent was notified on 25 September 2005. Final materials were submitted by the respondent on 31 July 2008.
3. Case for the complainant
3.1. The complainant maintains that the respondent perjured himself and victimisedthe complainant at the Private Residential Tenancies Board hearing when he told the Board that he was not aware why the complainant was withholding rent. The complainant argues that she had sent the respondent a number of letters explaining her reasons. She also maintains that she had told the respondent that he only needed to give her an undertaking of ‘acceptable behaviour’ in order for him to be allowed in her flat.
3.2. The complainant maintains that the above incident is a direct result of the complainant’s first complaint of discrimination back in 2001 when she alleged that the respondent was imposing discriminatory rent increases on the complainant and the complainant’s named neighbour. The complainant maintains that the respondent has attacked her consistently since then. These attacks, she maintains, include ‘a malicious Notice to Quit’ delivered at Christmas.
3.3. The complainant also maintains that the respondent does not like the disabled. She stated a number of incidents involving herself and other named neighbours to illustrate the point.
3.4. The complainant also accuses the respondent of failing to be gallant or chivalrous like a man should be, especially considering that his actions, according to the complainant, have half killed her. She maintains that the respondent dislikes her because she is ill.
3.5. In relation to the complaint of failure to provide reasonable accommodation the complainant maintains that she has cracks in the ceiling because of a named tenant’s stamping. This stamping, the complainant claims, was done at the respondent’s behest. The complainant maintains that reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities also means that people with disabilities should enjoy safe practices, behaviour and standards. The complainant submitted that the flat did not have any heating, a crack in the window and that she herself had to invest quite a bit of money in it to make it more habitable.
3.6. The complainant maintains that the respondent victimised her in a letter dated 10 March 2004 by suggesting that she could remain in the flat provided that she withdraw her complaint from this Tribunal.
4. Case for the respondent
4.1. The respondent refutes any allegation of discrimination, harassment, failure to provide reasonable accommodation and victimisation.
4.2. The respondent stated that he issued the notice to quit as he was unable to enter his property to carry out reasonable repairs.
4.3. The respondent submits that he had taken the complainant’s offer to withdraw the complaint in good faith. The main issue for him in 2004 was to obtain the monies owed to him and to ensure that the complainant started paying the correct amount of rent.
5. Conclusion of the Equality Officer
5.1. Section 38A (1) of the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 sets out the burden of proof which applies to claims of discrimination. It requires the complainant to establish, in the first instance, facts upon which he can rely in asserting that the he suffered discriminatory treatment. It is only where such a prima facie case has been established that the onus shifts to the respondent to rebut the inference of discrimination raised.
5.2. The complainant withdrew her complaint on the sexual orientation ground stating that it had been marked in error. The complainant submitted that the treatment that she received from the respondent was less favourable on the grounds of her disability and/or gender. I have been presented with no evidence to support these claims.
5.3. This Tribunal has no jurisdiction to investigate allegations of perjury. Nor can I investigate matters retrospectively prior to the implementation of the Equal Status Act in October 2000. It is clear that the respondent has a right to involve his legal representation and his family members in matters affecting him.
5.4. The complainant complained about the respondent refusing to provide her with reasonable accommodation in accordance with section 4 of the Acts. I have not been presented with enough evidence to suggest that the complainant found it impossible or unduly difficult to reside on the respondent’s premises. The matters pertaining to the complainant’s neighbour are not matters for this investigation as the complainant cannot make claims based on her perception on how someone else was treated.
5.5. The complaint of victimisation arises from the fact that the complainant submitted a letter from the respondent’s representative, dated 10 March 2004, where the respondent agrees to halt ejection proceedings if the complainant pays her rent dues and withdraws any case that she has with the Equality Tribunal in March 2004. This, on its own, may appear very damaging against the respondent. However, having examined the complainant’s submissions as well as the letters presented at the hearing by the respondent, it is clear that the complainant wrote to the respondent outlining an offer to withdraw the complaint in-lieu of the respondent withdrawing the Notice to Quit and discontinue the proceedings against her. This letter was dated 6 March 2004. I find that a reasonable person must accept such an offer in good faith. The complainant has failed to offer any evidence to support any claim that she somehow was coerced or menaced to write this offer to withdraw her complaints. Therefore, the complaint of victimisation fails.
In accordance with section 25(4) I conclude my investigation and issue the following decision:
The complainant has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the gender and/or disability grounds. She has also failed to establish a prima facie case of refusal to provide reasonable accommodation and victimisation. Therefore, her complaint fails and I find in favour of the respondent.
3 November 2008