ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION
Adjudication Decision Reference: ADJ-00003303
Complaint for Resolution:
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under Section 21 Equal Status Act, 2000
25th May 2016
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 21st September 2016
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Seán Reilly
In accordance with Section 41(4) of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and Section 25 of the Equal Status Act 2000 following the referral of the complaint to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaint and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaint.
Attendance at Hearing:
The Complainant had submitted a complaint under the Equal Status Act that she had been discriminated against by the Respondent on the grounds of her membership of the Travelling Community.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
I was asked to leave the premises after my grand daughter had been wrongly accused of stealing from the store. No reason was provided and no other customers were asked to leave aside from myself and my grand daughter who are both members of the travelling community
The Complainant said that on Saturday 9th April 2016 at lunch time, she was at the Respondent’s Shop, where she said it was busy. She said that she was there along with her husband and two female grandchildren, one 10 year old and one 5 year old, and they parked their car on the roadside close to the Store. She said that her husband and the 10 year old went into the Store first to buy goods and she and the other 5 year old grandchild remained in the Car.
She said that her husband and the 10 year old returned to the Car with the goods they had purchased. She said that just then, the rear door of the car where her 10 year old granddaughter had got into the Car was opened by a Security Officer from the Store. The Complainant asked him what the problem or issue was and he said that the Security Officer said that one of Store staff said the 10 year old child had stolen a box of teabags. The Complainant told him that certainly had not happened.
The Complainant said that she and the two grandchildren then went into the Store and she asked for an explanation and she informed that no theft had been committed by her granddaughter. She was told they would look at the CCTV coverage and she was asked to wait outside. The Complainant responded no she would not go outside and she was then asked to go to the back of the Store.
The Complainant was then told that her 10 year old granddaughter was seen by another member of staff taking/stealing the box of teabags. The Complainant said that she then spoke to that person, who said that the 10 year old “looked suspicious”.
The Complainant said that the CCTV was checked by the Respondent and they said there was no evidence of the 10 year old taking/stealing the goods and she was then asked to leave the Store; the Complainant asked why, as she and her two grandchildren did nothing wrong. The Respondent then told her they would ring the Gardai and she told them to go ahead.
The Complainant said that all of this occurred on the shop floor in front of customers at a vey busy time. She said that she was not brought to an office or a quiet place.
The Complainant said that the Gardai arrived quickly. She said they called her to one side and spoke to her asking her questions. She said the Gardai viewed the CCTV coverage and they then returned to her and told her there was nothing on the CCTV coverage and that the 10 year old grandchild did not do anything wrong; they told her the matter was handled very badly.
She said the Gardaí handled the matter very fairly and dealt with her appropriately and fairly.
The Complainant said that she and her grandchildren were extremely humiliated and embarrassed by the way the Respondent had behaved and the very public way they were embarrassed and humiliated in full view of a busy shop.
In response to questions the Complainant said that no one in the Store or on behalf of the Respondent, not the Security Officer any member of staff or management , apologised to her for the way she treated or offered her any explanation.
The Complainant submitted that she was treated the way she was because of her membership of the Travelling Community, a fact she said was well known to the Respondent and their staff, and she said that no member of the Settled Community would be treated that way by the Respondent.
The Complainant sought a favourable decision.
Summary of Respondent’s Position:
The Respondent was not present or represented and they sent no submissions.
Findings and Decision:
Section 41(4) of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 requires that I make a decision in relation to the complaint in accordance with the relevant redress provisions under Schedule 6 of that Act.
Section 25 of the Equal Status Act, 200 requires that I make a decision in relation to the complaint in accordance with the relevant redress provisions under Section 27 of that Act.
I have carefully considered the evidence and the submissions made and I have concluded as follows.
The Respondent was not present or represented at the Hearing and they sent no submissions, accordingly I only have the submissions and evidence of the Complainant to rely upon in this matter.
Based on the uncontested evidence of the Complainant I find and declare that the complaint is well founded and it is upheld.
I note that based on the uncontested evidence of the Complainant the following occurred:
The back door of the Complainant’s Car was opened by the a Security Officer of the Respondent, who in response to questions from the Complainant stated that one of the Store staff said her 10 year old granddaughter had stolen a box of teabags and this allegation was never withdrawn. This allegation was made without even a most basic checking of facts, i.e. viewing the CCTV coverage that was available. I accept as submitted that this would not have happened to a member of the Settled Community.
When the Complainant, quite properly, went into the Store and asked for an explanation:
She was not brought to an office or any private place
She was told that the Respondent would examine the CCTV, but was invited or allowed
to view it along with the Respondent
She was asked to leave the premises and wait outside
When she refused to leave the premises she was asked to wait at the back of the Shop
all of this occurred in full view of Shop full of customers.
I accept as submitted by the Complainant that this would not have happened to a
member of the Settled Community.
When the Complainant went and spoke to the Staff Member was supposed to have seen her 10 year old granddaughter stealing a box of teabags, that staff member told her that the child “looked suspicious” - and apparently that was sufficient for the child to be accused of theft, without any investigation and to be very publicly humiliated. I accept as submitted by the Complainant that this would not have happened to a member of the Settled Community.
When the Respondent checked the CCTV and discovered that there was absolutely no evidence of theft or wrongdoing by the Complainant’s 10 year old granddaughter, they did not as would be expected offer apologies to the Complainant and her granddaughter and instead and astonishingly asked her and the two children to leave the Store and again this was done in full view of customers. When the Complainant perfectly reasonably asked why she was been asked to leave as neither she nor her two grandchildren had done anything wrong, she was told the Respondent would ring the Gardaí (she told them to go ahead). I accept as submitted by the Respondent that this would not have happened to a member of the Settled Community.
A no stage was any effort made by the Respondent to withdraw the allegations made against the Complainant’s granddaughter.
Based on the foregoing I find and declare that the complaint by the Complainant under Section 25 of the Equal Status Act 2000, is well founded and it is upheld and in accordance with the provisions of Section 27 of the Act of 2000 I require the Respondent to pay the Complainant compensation in the sum of €10,000.00c within 7 weeks of the date of this decision.
Seán Reilly, Adjudication Officer
Dated: 12th December 2016