Cases highlight Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

The Equality Authority welcomes the ODEI decision in the Dr. Bennett Kim Heng Eng vs St. James Hospital which established pay discrimination on the race ground. “The successful case taken by Dr. Eng against St. James Hospital is a timely and important affirmation of the rights of third country nationals in Ireland”, said Niall Crowley, CEO Equality Authority.

The key findings of the Equality Officer include…


  • National law governs the right and entitlements of third country national resident in an EU member state
  • The EC Treaty cannot be relied on to justify the displacement of non-EU nationals in order to give priority to EU graduates in the allocation of funded Intern positions. The Treaty does not require employers to discriminate against non-EU nationals.

“The case raises the issue of the inequitable experiences of foreign doctors in our health system. Dr. Eng performed like work to his Irish colleagues for no pay. The success of this case will hopefully stimulate a wide review and change in the practices and policies that shape the experience of foreign doctors”, he added.

Dr. Eng’s award included arrears of salary, unrostered overtime and a weekly living out allowance.

Claims of discrimination in respect of equal pay and equal treatment on the race ground also featured in two unsuccessful cases taken by the Equality Authority on behalf of employees of the Italian Embassy in Dublin. The reason for the lack of success in these cases was that the ODEI found that they had “no jurisdiction to investigate the complainant’s substantive claim”. The respondent argued that the Italian Embassy “had never waived its right to avail of sovereign immunity in respect of any dealings it had with the complainant with regard to the employment relationship between them”. This was accepted by the ODEI and hence the reason for the loss of the cases.

“Workers in embassies should have the same rights of protection given to all other employees whose rights are protected from discrimination under national equality legislation. It is important that sovereign immunity does not supersede the right to equal treatment and equal pay in the workplace”, added Niall Crowley.

“In the light of these cases we are writing to the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to identify this problem and to seek an effective way of addressing this in any future review of the legislation”, concluded Niall Crowley.