The Equality Tribunal
3 Clonmel Street
Equal Status Acts, 2000 to 2008
Equality Officer Decision
Mr Tibor Farkas
Crumlin College of Further Education
File Ref: ES/2008/006
Date of Issue: 29 March 2010
Delegation under the Equal Status Acts, 2000 to 2008
This complaint was referred to the Director of the Equality Tribunal under the Equal Status Acts, 2000-2008. In accordance with her powers under Section 75 of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and under the Equal Status Acts, 2000-2008, the Director delegated the complaint to me, Elaine Cassidy, 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, 2000-2008. On 10th November 2009 my investigation commenced. As required by Section 25(1) and as part of my investigation, I proceeded to hearing on 24th March, 2010.
This dispute concerns a claim by the complainant, Mr Farkas that he was discriminated against by the respondent on the grounds of race, gender, marital status and religion in terms of Sections 3(1)(a) and 3(2)(a), 3(2)b), 3(2)(e) and 3(2)(h) of the Equal Status Acts, 2000-2008 in not being provided with a service which is generally available to the public contrary to Section 6(1) of the Equal Status Acts, 2000-2008.
2. Summary of the Complainant's Case
2.1 The complainant is a national of the Czech Republic. The complainant attended the Open Learning Centre at Crumlin College of Further Education on a number of occasions prior to the incident complained of. His purpose was to learn to use the computer. On 8th October 2007, during his training session, the supervisor asked to speak to him outside. She told him he could no longer attend the class. The complainant contends that he has been excluded on the grounds of his race, gender and marital status. At the oral hearing, he withdrew the complaint on the grounds of religion. He also suggested other grounds during the oral hearing but as these were not raised in his written notification or referral, these cannot been considered further.
3. Summary of the Respondent's Case
3.1 The respondent was represented by the Supervisor of the class, the Principal of the College and an Education Officer from the CDVEC. The Principal began by giving some background regarding the College. She explained that there is an Open Learning Centre as part of the College and this Centre aims to provide a very open, informal learning programme to encourage beginners to learn to use the computer. The process is that the student books one-hour sessions and during their first session, a facilitator will spend most of the hour with them showing them how the self-learning CBT (Computer Based Training) process works. After that the student is expected to work through the material themselves, although the facilitators are available at all times to assist. Students can book a session at any time and continue their module at their own pace. The Director wished to make very clear that the Centre does not operate like an Internet Cafe - there is clearly set-out training programme which must be followed during the session. This is explained to all students before they begin. The Principal also wished to point out that the Centre has a very open policy and do not refuse anyone, as it is their particular objective to offer opportunities to as many people as possible who need it.
3.2 The Supervisor gave her account of the incident in 8th October 2007. The complainant came up to her in the computer room and demanded help booking a flight. Although he had not booked a session that day, she showed him to a booth and allocated him a facilitator to get started. Although Mr Farkas had been there many times previously, the facilitator had to spend most of the hour with him, contrary to their normal practice of self-learning. Mr Farkas also called on the other students to help him with his booking, which caused disruption. At the end of the session he tried to book another class, but the Supervisor took him aside and tried to explain to him that it was not an internet cafe and if he wanted to continue he would have to follow the learning modules. The Supervisor submits that at this point, the complainant began to shout loudly and use profanities. She was embarrassed and suggested he come back and speak to the Course Director instead.
3.3 On 17th October 2007, the complainant went to speak to the Principal of the College and left details of his complaint with her staff. The Principal passed this complaint (about being excluded from the course) to the Course Director to investigate. On October 24th 2007, when the Course Director returned from holidays, Mr Farkas went to talk to him. The Course Director said he would investigate the issue. In the meantime however, there was another incident where the complainant accosted the Supervisor on the street on her way to work. The Supervisor was nervous after the incident and reported it the Director who decided to make a report to the Gardai. This was the final contact and there was no investigation of Mr Farkas' complaint.
4. Conclusions of the Equality Officer
4.1 The Equality Officer must first consider whether the existence of a prima facie case has been established by the complainant. Section 38(A) of the Equal Status Acts, 2000 to 2008 sets out the burden of proof which applies in a claim of discrimination. It requires the complainant to establish, in the first instance, facts upon which he/she can rely in asserting that prohibited conduct has occurred in relation to him/her. 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.
4.2 There is a dispute between the parties on all aspects of the incident. The complainant says that he was banned from using the Open Learning Centre because of who he was, and that everything the respondent says is untrue. The respondents say that they told Mr Farkas he could only use the Centre for the purposes intended. The respondents say that they advise all of their clients, irrespective of race, background etc, that the Centre may only be used for its specific training purpose. I accept the Respondent's version of events, as the class Supervisor presented a credible account, whereas the Complainant could not provide any details whatsoever of the incident in question.
4.3 During the Hearing, the complainant was asked to establish the connection between his grounds of race, gender and marital status and his alleged exclusion from the Centre. He was unable to make any connection and said it was probably because they did not like him.
4.4 Therefore as the complainant has failed to make any connection between his stated grounds and the conduct of the respondent, I find that he has failed to establish a prima facie case.
5.1 On the basis of the foregoing, I find in favour of the Respondent.
29 March 2010