High Court determines Labour Court erred on a point of law in important racial discrimination case

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (the ‘Commission’) welcomes a High Court judgement that sets aside a Labour Court Determination in a case about racial discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts.

The applicant, Mr Peter Onyemekeihia, is an Irish citizen, originally from Nigeria, and has worked as a prison officer since 2008. During a period of over 6 years working in Mountjoy Prison, Mr Onyemekeihia was subjected to constant and abhorrent racial abuse by prisoners, as well as a number of assaults. Mr Onyemekeihia felt that he had no option but to take a complaint under the Employment Equality Acts to the Workplace Relations Commission, and subsequently the Labour Court, as no adequate steps were taken by his employer to address the ongoing abuse over a long period of time notwithstanding ongoing and consistent engagement by Mr Onyemekeihia with his employer.

In an appeal on a point of law to the High Court, the Commission successfully argued that the Labour Court had not provided sufficient reasons for reaching its conclusion. Sinéad Gibney, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, stated:

“Mr Onyemekeihia initiated his proceedings against the Irish Prison Service in 2015 following repeated incidents of racial abuse by prisoners between 2009 and 2015. We welcome the decision of the High Court. The case will be listed for re-hearing before the Labour Court.

I urge employers to take all possible actions to protect employees from racial discrimination and harassment as required under the Employment Equality Acts”.


For further information, please contact:
Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,
01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760
Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Notes for Editors:

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.