The Equality Tribunal
3 Clonmel Street
Phone: 353 -1- 4774100
Fax: 353-1- 4774141
Equal Status Acts
EQUALITY OFFICER'S DECISION
NO: DEC-S2011 - 011
A mother (on behalf of her daughter)
- V -
A School Manager of a National School
File references: ES/2009/116
Date of issue: 4 March 2011
Keywords: Equal Status Acts 2000-2008 - Discriminatory Treatment - Family Status - Disability - No Prima facie case
1.1. This dispute concerns a claim by a mother on behalf of her daughter (hereafter "the complainant") that she was subjected to discriminatory treatment contrary to the Equal Status Acts by the School Manager of a National School (hereafter "the respondent") on the ground of her family status and disability. The complainant maintains that the respondent discriminated against her by not allowing her daughter to enroll at the mainstream school when she initially requested it and subsequently by not allowing her to enroll in the EBD (Emotional Difficulties) Unit of the school.
1.2. The complainant referred her claim of discrimination to the Director of the Equality Tribunal on 10 November 2009 under the Equal Status Acts. On 26 November 2010, in accordance with his powers under section 75 of the Acts, the Director then delegated this case to Elaine Cassidy - an Equality Officer - for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part VII of the Acts on which date my investigation commenced. As required by Section 25 and as part of my investigation, I proceeded to hearing on 2 March 2011. The respondent was in attendance at this hearing, but the complainant was not.
1.3 As the investigation concerns a child, I have anonymised the decision, in accordance with the usual practice of the Tribunal.
2. Circumstances of the Hearing
2.1. The complainant gave the name of her local councillor as her representative on her ES3 referral form. Subsequent to that, the Tribunal was advised that a firm of solicitors had come on record for the complainant and thereafter all correspondence was directed to them. In October 2010 the Tribunal was notified that this firm of solicitors had come off record and that the complainant would be representing herself in this matter. Correspondence was addressed directly to the complainant after that.
2.2 The complainant was notified of the hearing on 1 December 2010. This letter was returned marked "gone away" and the Tribunal contacted the complainant's former solicitors to obtain a new address. The complainant was notified of the hearing at her new address on 13 December 2010.
2.3 On 1 March 2011, the complainant spoke to the Tribunal Secretariat and said that she hadn't been in touch with her local councillor recently because he was busy with elections. She said that she was going to come to the Hearing herself, even if the councillor could not make it. At 9.30am on the morning of the Hearing, the complainant sent a fax to the Tribunal which stated that the councillor was not informed that the hearing was to be held on that day, and he was unavailable due to a bereavement. The complainant requested a new hearing date. Upon receiving the fax, the Tribunal Secretariat contacted the complainant by mobile phone and spoke to the complainant's husband. The Secretariat said that the Hearing was due to start 10.30am and explained that adjournments could only be granted where evidence was provided of exceptional circumstances. The complainant's husband said that he would pass on the message. No further correspondence was received from the complainant.
3. Conclusions of the Equality Officer
3.1 The opening of the hearing was delayed until 11.30am but the complainant did not attend. No further communication was made by the complainant over the next two days. I have considered all of the above communication carefully and I am of the view that the complainant's failure to attend was unreasonable in the circumstances.
4 . Decision
4.1 In accordance with Section 25(4) of the Equal Status Acts, 2000 to 2008, I issue the following decision. As part of my investigation under Section 25 of the Act, I am obliged to hear all interested persons. I find that the complainant's failure to attend such a hearing was unreasonable in the circumstances and that any obligation under 25(1) to hear the interested persons has ceased. As no evidence was given at the hearing I find that no evidence of discrimination was presented. Accordingly, I conclude the investigation and find against the complainant.
4 March 2011