ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00020830
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under Section 21 Equal Status Act, 2000
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 01/11/2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Breiffni O'Neill
In accordance with Section 25 of the Equal Status Act, 2000following the referral of the complaint(s)/dispute(s) to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaint(s)/dispute(s) and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaint(s)/dispute(s).
The complainant is a Congolese national and is also black. He is claiming that he was discriminated against and harassed on the race grounds by the Respondent contrary to the Equal Status Acts. He notified the respondent of the complaints on the 22nd February 2019 but did not receive a response. He referred the matter to the WRC on 1st April 2019.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The complainant stated that he came to Ireland in 2010 and was in direct provision for 6 years prior to renting the property from the respondent in August 2016. He stated that he gave the landlord €850 by way of a deposit, which he had received from as well as €850 by way of an advance on his first month’s rent which he had borrowed from a friend. The complainant stated that he was advised by Threshold that the landlord would have to return the €850 he paid for the first month’s rent as he would receive this from the local authority. He tried to advise the landlord of this on a number of occasions and to inform him of works that needed to be done to the property but every time he tried to call, he would hang up the phone. He also stated that on occasion he would see the landlord going next door to pick up the rent from his neighbour but that when he attempted to approach him, he would be harassed. Specifically, the complainant produced a video recording of an interaction he had with the respondent on 5th January 2019 last when he approached him to fix an alarm. He referred to him as “a black p***k, a black f***ker, a black c**t. He also claimed that the respondent physically assaulted him with a brush on that occasion and that when he made him aware that he was recording the conversation he said that he could “play the recording next to his flute in the Congo next week”.
He also said that he asked him to fix the toilet on numerous occasions but that when he did so the landlord abused him using racial epithets, threatened to cut his head off and send him “on a slow boat back to the Congo”. He also stated that the landlord informed him that there was nothing wrong with the toilet except for the fact that his wife was “sh***ing and putting too much toilet paper into it”. The claimant said that when he attempted to unblock the toilet himself, faeces came into the shower which meant that they had to bathe using a bucket. As a result of the failure to fix the toilet both he and his wife had to go to the petrol station to use the toilet there. He also claimed that there were worms in the property as a result of the neglect and produced photographic evidence of the rooms in the property. As a result of the conditions of the house, the complainant said that he sought to declare himself homeless so that he could be accommodated elsewhere.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
Despite having been informed by letter on 3rd of October of the location, date and time of the hearing, the respondent did not attend to give evidence.
Section 25 of the Equal Status Acts, 2000 – 2015 requires that I make a decision in relation to the complaint in accordance with the relevant redress provisions under section 27 of that Act.
The complainant alleged that he was harassed on the race and grounds following complaints he made regarding the property.
Section 11 provides:
“—(1) A person shall not sexually harass or harass (within the meaning of subsection (4) or (5)) another person (“the victim”) where the victim—
(a) avails or seeks to avail himself or herself of any service provided by the person or purchases or seeks to purchase any goods being disposed of by the person,
(b) is the proposed or actual recipient from the person of any premises or of any accommodation or services or amenities related to accommodation, or
(4) A person’s rejection of, or submission to, sexual or other harassment may not be used by any other person as a basis for a decision affecting that person.
(5) (a) In this section—
(i) references to harassment are to any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds, and
being conduct which in either case has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person.
(b) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (a), such unwanted conduct may consist of acts, requests, spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material.”
On the basis of the evidence I heard from the complainant, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I am satisfied that the respondent repeatedly subjected him to hostile and intimidating behaviour and called him offensive names, which constitutes harassment according to Section 11 of the Act. Specifically, the offensive names referred to his colour and therefore constitutes harassment on the race ground. I therefore find that the Complainant has established a prima facie case of harassment on the race ground which the respondent has failed to rebut.
I have concluded my investigation of this complaint and for the above reasons I find, pursuant to Section 25(4) of the Acts, that the complainant was harassed on the race grounds contrary to the provisions of Section 11 of the Act.
Under section 27(1) of that Act redress may be ordered where a finding is in favour of the complainant. Section 27(1) provides that:
"the types of redress for which a decision of the Director of the Workplace Relations Commission under section 25 may provide are either or both of the following as may be appropriate in the circumstances:
(a) an order for compensation for the effects of the prohibited conduct concerned; or
(b) an order that a person or persons specified in the order take a course of action which is so specified."
Under the above Section the maximum amount of compensation I can award is €15,000. In considering the amount of compensation that I consider appropriate, I have witnessed the effects of the discriminatory treatment has had on the Complainant. In addition, I have taken into the serious and ongoing nature of the abuse and harassment on the race ground. In the circumstances, an award of €15,000 is appropriate.
Dated: 4th December 2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Breiffni O'Neill