ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00023718
A member of the travelling community
A limited Company
Clare-ann Temple Benville & Robinson
Did not attend
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: 31/01/2020
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Niamh O'Carroll Kelly
In accordance with 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
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The Complainant is a member of the travelling community and resides in County of Wicklow.
The Respondent is the licence holder in a pub, located at in the County of Wicklow.
The Complainant’s husband booked a birthday party for the Complainant by way of telephone call with a representative/staff member of the Respondent on 14th March 2019. The telephone call took place between the hours of 17.15 and 18.00. The party was to celebrate the complainant’s 33rd birthday. The reservation was for between 40 and 50 women in the function room and was to include finger food. It was agreed between the parties that the cost of the booking was €250.00 and the room was booked for 7pm for a party due to take place on 4th April 2019.
A representative/staff member of the Respondent accepted the booking on the phone and requested the Complainant’s husband to drop in a deposit. It was agreed that the Complainant’s husband would drop in a deposit approximately 15 minutes after the phone call. The Complainant attended at the Respondent’s licenced premises with her husband and two children within the agreed time frame. When he attempted to pay the deposit for the party, a staff member alleged that he could not locate the book to confirm the event. The staff member refused to take the deposit and notified the Complainant and her husband that a manager identified as J….. would call them back when they found the book.
It was clear to the Complainant and her family that the staff member had difficulties with their ethnicity. The story put forward by the Respondent was not credible. The Complainant was embarrassed at the interaction and left the premises with her two children. The Complainant submits that the staff member refused to take the booking when he realised that the Complainant, her husband and two children were members of the travelling community.
The Manager of the Respondent Company did not phone back as promised. As such, the complainant’s husband telephoned the premises on three occasions on the 19th March 2019. During one such phone call, the Complainant’s husband spoke to a staff member who identified himself as a Manager called J….. Then when the complainant’s husband identified himself, the staff member then started repeating the word “Hello” and pretended that he could not hear him. It is not accepted that there were difficulties with the phoneline and it is submitted that the staff member pretended not to hear him as he was refusing to take the booking for the Complainant’s birthday party for discriminatory reasons.
The complainant’s husband telephoned the Respondent premises back straight away and requested to speak to the Manager J….. again. He was told that the manager J…. was unavailable to take the call which is again not accepted and is not plausible due to the time frame involved.
The Complainant, her husband and two children were embarrassed and humiliated at the refusal to take the booking.
On 25th April 2019, the Complainant’s solicitors wrote to the Licence Holder at the company’s registered address in Tallaght and at the licensed premises in Wicklow Town, setting out details of the discriminatory behaviour. No response was received to the correspondence
On 7th May 2019, an ES1 notification from was served on the company’s registered office and at the licensed premises. An ES2 form was enclosed for a reply to be furnished. No response or ES2 reply was received. As such, on 15th August 2019, a complaint was filed with the WRC.
The Complainant has filed a claim of discrimination based on membership of the travelling community contrary to section 3 of the Equal Status Acts, 2000-2015.
The Complainant submits discrimination has occurred as she has been treated less favourably than another person, has or would be treated in a comparable situation on any of the grounds specified in subsection (2) and due to her membership of the travelling community. The Complainant submits that the Respondent, its staff and/or agents would not have treated another person in the way herself and his family were treated. The party was booked over the phone by the Complainant’s husband and the Complainant submits that she was subjected to discriminatory behaviour on two occasions, firstly when she attended at the Respondent’s premises and the staff member refused to take the booking by pretending not to locate a book to take the deposit. Secondly when they refused to return/take calls and pretended not to hear the Complainant’s husband on the phone. The Complainant submits that the sole reason behind this behaviour is the discriminatory attitude of the Respondent due to herself and her family’s membership of the travelling community.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
No Appearance for or on behalf of the respondent.
Findings and Conclusions:
Section 19 Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2003 defines “prohibited conduct” as discrimination against, or sexual harassment or harassment of, or permitting the sexual harassment or harassment of a person in contravention of Part II (Discrimination and Related Activities) of the Act of 2000 on, or at the point of entry to, licensed premises.
3.—(1) For the purposes of this Act, discrimination shall be taken to occur where—
(a) on any of the grounds specified in subsection (2) (in this Act referred to as “the discriminatory grounds”) which exists at present or previously existed but no longer exists or may exist in the future, or which is imputed to the person concerned, a person is treated less favourably than another person is, has been or would be treated,
b) (i) a person who is associated with another person is treated, by virtue of that association, less favourably than a person who is not so associated is, has been or would be treated, and
(ii) similar treatment of that person on any of the discriminatory grounds would, by virtue of paragraph (a), constitute discrimination,
(2) As between any two persons, the discriminatory grounds (and the descriptions of those grounds for the purposes of this Act) are:
(i) that one is a member of the Traveller community and the other is not (the “Traveller community ground”),
I must first establish whether I have jurisdiction to hear the within complaints.
The complainant alleges that she and her husband were discriminated against by the respondent on two occasions. Firstly, on the 14th March when they attended at the premises of the respondent to pay the deposit for the booking. That alleged discrimination occurred on the premises and as such comes within the Jurisdiction of the District Court pursuant to Section 19 above.
Secondly, on the 19th March when the complainant’s husband called to confirm the booking for the complainant. the manager J… who answered the call pretended not to be able to hear the complainant’s husband on the phone. He clearly could hear him prior to knowing who he was. I am satisfied based on the uncontested evidence of both the complainant and her husband that they were treated less favourable than someone who was not a member of the travelling community when the respondent attempted to avoid taking their booking. That discrimination took place over the phone and therefore is not of the type anticipated by Section 19.
In all of the circumstances I find that the complainant has established a prima facia case of discrimination accordingly her complaint succeeds. I am awarding the complainant €5,000.00 compensation.
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 complaint is well founded. I award the complainant €5,0000.00
Dated: September 15th 2020
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Niamh O'Carroll Kelly