The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has welcomed the judgment of the Court of Appeal in Culkin v Sligo County Council, in which the Commission appeared in its independent role as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’).
Mr. Culkin had brought both a complaint of discrimination before the former Equality Tribunal (now subsumed into the Workplace Relations Commission), and a personal injuries claim before the High Court, arising from bullying and harassment alleged to have occurred in his workplace.
His employer, Sligo County Council, denied the claims, and sought to have the personal injuries proceedings dismissed on the basis that Mr Culkin had already had his complaint of discrimination heard by the Equality Tribunal.
Sligo County Council relied on provisions of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 – 2015, which prevent those who have referred a complaint of discrimination to the Workplace Relations Commission from recovering damages before the courts in certain cases.
In the High Court, it was held that these provisions should be interpreted as preventing Mr Culkin from pursuing his claim for damages for personal injuries.
In its role as amicus curiae, the Commission argued that the decision of the High Court would have a ‘chilling effect’ on complaints of discrimination arising from the workplace, and argued that the relevant provisions of the Employment Equality Acts required to be interpreted in light of EU law, and in particular the requirements of effectiveness and equivalence.
The Court of Appeal, in a judgment delivered this week, has held that the Employment Equality Acts did not automatically prevent an individual from pursuing both a complaint of discrimination before the Workplace Relations Commission, and a claim of personal injuries arising from the same factual circumstances.
Reacting to the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Emily Logan, chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated:
“This judgment of the Court of Appeal, which reflects the approach suggested by the Commission in its independent role as amicus, will have significant practical implications for individuals who have experienced discrimination in the workplace, and will ensure that the measures in place to ensure that workers are protected from discrimination are effective.
For further information, please contact:
Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,
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The Commission was granted liberty to appear as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) in Culkin v Sligo County Council in January 2016. The written submissions from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission are available at the following link:
The ‘amicus curiae’ function of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
The Commission’s functions under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 include that of applying for liberty to appear as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) before the superior courts in proceedings that involve, or are concerned with, the human rights or equality rights of any person.
Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was established on 1 November 2014. The 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.
Under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014, the Commission’s principal functions are –
- to protect and promote human rights and equality,
- to encourage the development of a culture of respect for human rights, equality, and intercultural understanding in the State,
- to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality in the State,
- to encourage good practice in intercultural relations, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the State and respect for the freedom and dignity of each person, and
- to work towards the elimination of human rights abuses, discrimination and prohibited conduct.