Letter by CEO regarding CERT Trainee Required to Wear a Skirt

Dear Editor,

There has been significant and welcome media coverage recently in relation to the decision of an equality officer to award £3,000 to a CER1; trainee. The Equality Officer found that .CERT directly discriminated against the trainee on the; gender ground when CERT insisted that its standard female uniform be worn to interviews held on its premises and thereby caused her to miss job opportunities.

We wish to clarify some points which may have caused confusion in this coverage. These relate to the role of the Equality Authority, the content and the implications of the decision.

In relation to the role of the Equality Authority it is important to distinguish this from the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations (ODEI). The ODEI is the principal forum for seeking redress under the equality legislation. This is the institution where the Equality Officers are located. The Equality Authority does not decide on claims under the legislation. We have the mandate to work towards the elimination of discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity in relation to employment and the provision of goods and services and facilities. In this case we provided legal support to the CERT trainee in taking her case.

It is also important to clarify that decisions of the ODEI in relation to employment equality issues can be appealed to the Labour Court. The recommendations of the Labour Court can then be appealed to the High Court on a point of law. In relation to the content of the decision it is important to note.that the discrimination was found to be on the gender ground. A number of references have been made to the age of the CERT trainee but her age was not material to the case.

As far as the implications of the decision are concerned, it may well be that this case, as suggested in the coverage, will be used as a precedent in future claims under the Equal Status Act 2000 in relation to the compulsory wearing of skirts as standard female uniforms in schools. However seeking to extend the precedent beyond this could well be to read too much into the finding of the Equality Officer .


Yours faithfully,

Niall Crowley
Chief Executive Officer