Case Studies

  • Using health services with a medical condition

    Case A Service User v. A Dentist and A Dental Clinic
    Topic

    A woman who had let the dental clinic know of her HIV status in advance of an appointment, having been injected with anaesthetic while seated in the dentist’s chair, was then refused treatment by the dentist.

    Outcome

    Resolved through mediation. The dental clinic apologised, and made payment of €10,000 to her. It also implemented a company equality policy and provided equality and diversity, including HIV, training to its employees.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Public housing and age discrimination

    Case A Tenant v. A Local Authority
    Topic

    A tenant alleged discrimination on the age ground in the provision of housing against the local authority.

    Outcome

    The tenant referred a complaint to the WRC but the matter settled before going to a full hearing.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Getting a mortgage and race discrimination

    Case Two Applicants for a Mortgage v. A Bank
    Topic

    Bank representatives approached an Irish citizen with an offer to switch mortgage providers. When the man made the mortgage application to the bank confirming that his wife is a non-EEA national, the application was refused because his wife was resident on a Stamp 4 immigration visa.

    Outcome

    The couple made a complaint of discrimination to the WRC. Resolved through mediation.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Opening a bank account and race discrimination

    Case A Syrian Refugee v. A Bank
    Topic

    A high-street bank refused to open a bank account for the man who is a Syrian refugee, on the ground of his Syrian nationality.

    Outcome

    The WRC adjudication ordered the bank to pay compensation of €4,000 to the man, and ordered the bank to engage directly with the Commission to minimise the possibility of a re-occurrence of this type of incident. The WRC refused jurisdiction on the grounds that his ES1 complaint form had been served out of time on the RSA. Having secured full residency permission and a driver licence in the meantime, he decided not to appeal.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Getting a driving licence and race discrimination

    Case An Asylum Seeker v. Road Safety Authority (RSA)
    Topic

    The man applied for and was granted a learner driver permit in early 2018. He subsequently passed his driver test and applied for a full driver licence. However, when at his local NDLS office, a member of staff refused to issue him with a driver licence on the ground that he lacked the proof of normal residence required by the RSA. The man referred the matter to the Ombudsman and continued to engage in correspondence with the RSA before referring a complaint of discrimination on the ground of race to the WRC.

    Outcome

    The WRC refused jurisdiction on the grounds that his ES1 complaint form had been served out of time on the RSA. Having secured full residency permission and a driver licence in the meantime, he decided not to appeal.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Getting a credit card and race discrimination

    Case A Refugee v. A Bank
    Topic

    The high-street bank blocked the man, a refugee resident in the State for several years and a customer of the bank, from applying for a credit card online based on his nationality.

    Outcome

    The man made his complaint to the WRC. Resolved through mediation.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • “HAP doesn’t suit me” – Renting on Housing Assistance Payment

    Case A Tenant v. A Letting Agent
    Topic

    The woman was offered the tenancy of a property. However when she advised the letting agent that she would be paying the rent through the Housing Assistance Payment (‘HAP’) scheme, she was informed that this would not suit the landlord.

    Outcome

    The woman made her complaint to the WRC. Resolved through mediation. The letting agent agreed to pay compensation, make a donation to charity, provide equality training to its staff, and draft and publish on its website an equality policy and equality statement.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • “I don’t take social welfare” – Renting on Housing Assistance Payment

    Case A Prospective Tenant v. A Landlord
    Topic

    Faced with imminent homelessness, the man responded to an online advert for a rental property. In response to a written question from the landlord, he advised that the property would be for him and his family and that the rent would be paid by HAP. The landlord replied, “I don’t take social welfare, sorry about that.”

    Outcome

    The man submitted his complaint to the WRC. In its decision, the WRC ordered the landlord to pay €4,000 in compensation.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • “Looking for professionals only” – Renting on Housing Assistance Payment

    Case A Tenant v. A Landlord
    Topic

    The woman contacted a landlord to arrange a viewing of a rental property. The landlord questioned whether she was in full-time employment. The woman responded that, currently, she was not, but she was in receipt of HAP and she further indicated a willingness to pay an extra rent top-up of €100 per month. She received a reply stating the landlord was “looking for professionals not on the HAP scheme.”

    Outcome

    The WRC ruled that the landlord’s preference for non-HAP tenants was discriminatory. It ordered the landlord to pay a total of €750 in compensation to the woman.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Refused bar service as a Member of the Traveller Community

    Case Five Members of the Traveller Community v. A Hotel
    Topic

    The five people alleged that they had been discriminated against when they were refused service in a hotel bar. They had been attending a conference at the venue on issues affecting the Traveller community. They went to the bar after the conference only to be informed that
    they could not be served because the hotel was serving residents only.

    Outcome

    The five applied to the District Court for redress under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. Resolved through mediation.

    Law Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003
    Year 2019
  • Asked to leave a pub with a disability

    Case A Man v A Public House
    Topic

    The man, who has a brain tumour, was asked to leave the pub where he was celebrating the end of his rehabilitative treatment, because he appeared unsteady on his feet.

    Outcome

    Without having to go to court the pub agreed to issue a meaningful apology to the man alongside compensation of €3,500. The management also agreed to attend an annual equality training course, and to report back to the Commission under the agreed settlement, which saw no admission of liability.

    Law Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003
    Year 2019
  • Social housing and Membership of the Traveller Community

    Case A Family v A Local Authority
    Topic

    A local authority failed to provide a homeless family, who are members of the Traveller community, social housing and failed to clarify their status on the housing list.

    Outcome

    Pre-litigation resolution reached – the family were offered suitable social housing.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Banking with an intellectual disability

    Case A Service User v. a Bank
    Topic

    The complainant, who has a mild intellectual disability, set up a bank account as part of her move to independent living, as she was transferring from a lengthy period in institutional care to a community setting. However, the bank subsequently closed down her account as her registered address was an institutional care setting.

    Outcome

    The complainant successfully took issue with the bank’s position and a private and confidential settlement was reached by the parties to the satisfaction of the complainant.

    Law EEA
    Year 2018
  • Attending pre-school with a disability

    Case A Complainant v. a Preschool Provider
    Topic

    The complainant, a four-year old boy with a physical disability, was refused admission to a preschool to participate in the ECCE free pre-school year. The preschool refused to make inquiries into whether the reasonable accommodation required to support him could be obtained through AIM funding (i.e. State funding aimed to ensure children with disabilities can participate in the ECCE year).

    Outcome

    The complaint was resolved through mediation. The terms of the mediation settlement included a written apology to the young boy and his mother, and a payment of €2,000 to the child. In addition, the preschool undertook to make changes to improve the equality and inclusion infrastructure of their business model. This included a commitment to engage in the AIM model on a case-by-case basis; development and publication of an Inclusion and Diversity Model; and the provision of equality and diversity training to all current and future staff. It was also agreed that the Commission would contact ECCE and AIM stakeholders to highlight the legal requirements under the Equal Status Acts. regarding the provision of reasonable accommodation to children with disabilities in preschool settings.

    Law ESA
    Year 2018
  • Social housing and Membership of the Traveller Community

    Case A Family v. a County Council
    Topic

    This case concerns discrimination on the ground of membership of the Traveller Community. The five complainants were family who alleged that a County Council discriminated against them in their application for social housing support because they are members of the Traveller community. The County Council refused their application on the basis that they were illegally residing in a caravan on private property and so were not normally resident for the purposes of the Social Housing
    Assessment Regulations 2011.

    Outcome

    The WRC found that the family were discriminated against because the County
    Council had introduced an additional criterion of legality when interpreting
    normal residence which disproportionately affects members of the Traveller community and where the Council does not generally examine the legal tenancy of people resident in houses.

    The WRC awarded a total of €20,000 in compensation to the family and directed the County Council to review its policy in relation to the Social Housing Assessment Regulations.

    Law ESA
    Year 2018
  • Getting a job with a medical condition

    Case A Prospective Employee v. A Recruitment Agency
    Topic

    The offer of employment to a man living with HIV was withdrawn because of his medical condition.

    Outcome

    Resolved through mediation.

    Law EEA
    Year 2019
  • Equal pay and disability

    Case An Employee v. An Employer
    Topic

    An employee with a disability complained about his employer’s failure to make reasonable accommodation and to provide equal pay.

    Outcome

    Resolved through mediation.

    Law EEA
    Year 2019
  • Discrimination and harassment and the Housing Assistance Payment

    Case A Tenant v. a Landlord
    Topic

    In this case, a tenant asked their landlord to sign a HAP form following an unexpected reduction in their income. The landlord refused to sign the form, putting the tenant’s family at risk of homelessness. The tenant informed the landlord that refusing to accept HAP was discriminatory. The landlord issued a notice of termination of the lease in response. The tenant applied to the Commission for legal assistance, the Commission referred a complaint to the WRC on her behalf.

    Outcome

    The landlord did not attend the WRC hearing and the complainant was awarded €3,500 for discrimination and €2,000 for harassment.

    Law ESA
    Year 2018
  • Vocational training with a disability

    Case An Applicant to a Vocational Training Course v. A Vocational Training Provider
    Topic

    A man with a visual disability was refused a place on a vocational training course. This refusal was on the basis that he would be using his own safety equipment, which he had modified to accommodate his disability.

    Outcome

    Resolved in advance of WRC hearing. The training provider agreed to pay compensation to the applicant, provide anti-discrimination training to its staff, review its equality policies, and keep them updated.

    Law EEA
    Year 22019
  • Refused by a recruitment service due to disability

    Case A Prospective Employee v. a Recruitment service
    Topic

    The complainant, a newly qualified man in his early thirties who is Deaf, alleged discrimination on the disability ground. His interview offer with a recruitment service was withdrawn after he made basic reasonable accommodation requests.

    Outcome

    The complaint was resolved by mediation – the terms of the mediation settlement included a written apology, and a payment of €2,500 by the recruitment service. In addition, the recruitment service agreed to develop an Equality and Reasonable Accommodation Policy and to provide training to staff on the same policy, once completed. The recruitment service further committed to providing staff with Deaf Awareness Training.

    Law EEA
    Year 2018
  • Renting with an assistance dog

    Case A Tenant v. An Accommodation Provider
    Topic

    A disabled man was refused permission to have his assistance dog living with him in rented accommodation.

    Outcome

    Resolved through mediation.

    Law ESA
    Year 2019
  • Renting and Membership of the Traveller Community

    Case A Complainant v. a Limited Company
    Topic

    An estate agent declined to show a rental property to a member of the Traveller community, saying that it was no longer available. However, when a friend of the woman, who is not a member of the Traveller community, subsequently contacted the estate agent, the agent said that it was still available and arranged a viewing for them.

    Outcome

    The Commission referred the matter to the WRC for mediation on behalf of the woman. It was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

    Law ESA
    Year 2018
  • Refused rental property due to children

    Case A Complainant v. a Limited Company
    Topic

    The complainant (with her two minor dependent children) viewed a rental property advertised by an estate agent, and immediately expressed interest in the property. The estate agent later informed the complainant by email that the landlord did not want children in the property.

    Outcome

    The complainant contacted the Commission, who referred the matter to the WRC for mediation. It was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties involved.

    Law ESA
    Year 2018
  • Age discrimination in joining the Garda Síochána

    Case The Minister for Justice and Equality and Commissioner of the Garda Síochána v. Workplace Relations Commission
    Topic

    The original case from which these proceedings arose relates to a number of men who sought to join the Garda Síochána between 2005 and 2007, but who were refused entry based on the relevant legislation – the Garda Síochána (Admission and Appointments) Regulations 1988 – which set the upper age limit for entry as a trainee at 35. Following their refusal, the men brought complaints before the Equality Tribunal, predecessor body to the WRC on the basis that the maximum age limit for entry to the Garda Síochána amounted to age discrimination under the Employment Equality Act 1998, which is the national legislation that gives effect to the EU Directive on equal treatment in employment. However, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform brought a case to the High Court challenging the authority of the Equality Tribunal to consider the complaints lodged by the men or to decide whether the Regulations were valid in law. The High Court ruled that the Equality Tribunal was not entitled to declare that a national law was inconsistent with EU law, this being a power given to the High Court under the Constitution.

    Outcome

    This case was appealed to the Supreme Court. Whilst the Supreme Court found that the WRC did not have power under national law to disregard legislation, it referred a question to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) specifically to decide whether a body such as the WRC has the authority under EU law to make a binding legal declaration where national and EU laws are inconsistent. The hearing was held before the Grand Chamber of the CJEU in June 2018 in Luxembourg and the Commission represented two of the complainants in the substantive age discrimination cases. The Advocate General’s opinion was delivered in September 2018, and the CJEU delivered its judgment in December 2018. The CJEU found that, on the basis of the principle of primacy of EU law, bodies such as the WRC that are tasked with applying EU law have the power to disapply if need be any national provisions or national case-law that are contrary to EU law. The matter has been referred back to the Supreme Court. In November 2020, the Workplace Relations Commission published its rulings confirming that age restrictions enforced to stop those aged 35 and over from joining the Garda Síochána as trainees are discriminatory.

    Law EEA
    Year 2018
  • Seating on an airplane and gender discrimination

    Case A Service User v. An Airline
    Topic

    The Commission provided legal representation to a service user (‘the Complainant’) who claimed that she had been harassed and discriminated against within the meaning of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 (‘the ESA’) on the ground of gender in accessing the services provided by an airline at Dublin Airport.

    Outcome

    The Complainant, who had booked a flight with the airline, claimed that prior to boarding the flight she was requested by the airline’s staff to move from her allocated seat in order to accommodate the religious beliefs of two men who had been allocated the seats beside her and who did not wish to sit beside a woman. The Complainant lodged a complaint with the Workplace Relations Commission. The matter was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties following a mediation process facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission.

    Law ESA
    Year 2017
  • Getting insurance with a disability

    Case A Service User v. Service Providers
    Topic

    The Commission provided legal representation to an insurance customer in a disability discrimination case, relating to a chronic illness, under the ESA against a number of public and private service providers.

    Outcome

    The matter was settled to the satisfaction of all parties in April 2017.

    Law ESA
    Year 2017
  • Race harrassment by a third party in the public sector

    Case An Employee v. A Public Sector Employer
    Topic

    The Commission represented a public sector employee before the Workplace Relations Commission (‘the WRC’) in relation to a complaint of third party racial harassment under the EEA. The employee’s case was that she had been subjected to racial harassment from her employer’s service users over a number of years.

    Outcome

    The matter was resolved in June 2017 to the satisfaction of all parties following a mediation process facilitated by the Workplace Relations Commission.

    Law EEA
    Year 2017
  • Statutory retirement and age and family status discrimination

    Case An Employee v. A State Agency
    Topic

    The Commission provided legal representation to an employee before the Workplace Relations Commission in an important age and family status discrimination case against a State agency and a government department. The employee argued that, by not being allowed to continue working beyond 65, she was being discriminated against on grounds of age under section 8 of the EEA. The employee also claimed discrimination on the ground of family status as her application to work beyond the age of 65 was rejected on the basis that she does not have any dependents and, for this reason, she did not fall within the criteria set out in Government Circular 13/1975, which provides guidance on the retention of civil servants beyond the mandatory age limit.

    Outcome

    The case was withdrawn on 19 July 2017 on foot of an agreement that the employee could continue working beyond her contractual and statutory retirement age of 65, with the right to apply for a further extension thereafter.

    Law EEA
    Year 2017
  • Denied service in a pub and Membership of the Traveller Community

    Case Applicants v. A Publican
    Topic

    The Commission provided legal representation to a group of men, members of the Traveller community, in respect of an incident in which they were denied service in a licensed premises. The group had been attending a human rights course and, at the end of the day, decided to go for a drink to a nearby pub. They entered the pub and approached the bar in pairs, howeverthe bar staff refused to serve them claiming that only regulars were being served that night. The individuals involved applied jointly to the District Court for redress under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003.

    Outcome

    The matter was settled before hearing in November 2017, with agreement from the licensed premises to pay €6,000 compensation to each of the individuals, plus a further €500 payment to each, to be donated to a charity of their choice. It was a further condition of the settlement that the staff involved in the incident attend a course of equality training.

    Law Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003
    Year 2017
  • Renting and Membership of the Traveller Community

    Case An Applicant v. A Limited Company
    Topic

    The Commission provided legal representation to a woman in her successful challenge of discrimination under the ESA’s housing assistance ground in the provision of accommodation. The case focused on the woman’s experience in viewing and seeking to confirm a property for rental in March 2016. In their exchanges about the property, the woman informed the estate agent that she was in receipt of rent supplement. The estate agent requested to speak to the woman’s Community Welfare Officer(‘CWO’) and, in exchanges, stated that he would not be willing to hold the property while the woman’s application for rent supplement was being processed, nor guarantee her the property

    Outcome

    In November 2017 the Workplace Relations Commission (‘the WRC’), determined that the woman had been directly discriminated against on the housing assistance ground, and ordered €2,500 in compensation to be paid. The WRC also instructed that all employees acting as the company’s estate agents are to be provided with the proper appropriate training in relation to all provisions of the ESA.

    Law ESA
    Year 2017
  • Sitting school exams with a disability

    Case Kim Cahill v. Minister for Education and Science
    Topic

    The Commission provided legal representation to Kim Cahill in her appeal to the Supreme Court. This case focused in particular on the scope of the duty to make reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities. Kim Cahill sat her Leaving Certificate in 2001 and obtained an exemption solely on the assessment of spelling and grammar elements of language subjects due to her dyslexia. However, when her Leaving Certificate was issued, it carried an explanatory note stating that certain parts of the exam had not been assessed, revealing her disability. She perceived this both as discriminatory less favourable treatment, and a failure to make reasonable accommodation.

    Outcome

    The Equality Tribunal upheld Ms. Cahill’s original complaint and directed that the Minister pay €6,000. However, this decision was subsequently appealed, through the Circuit Court and the High Court, to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court handed down judgment on 24 May 2017 which clarified the duty to provide reasonable accommodation under the ESA and held that the Minister for Education and Science is subject to the requirement to provide reasonable accommodation in the delivery of educational services under the Education Act 1998. The Supreme Court found that, on the evidence, there had been no breach of the duty and recognised the great effort involved in bringing forward what it described as “these fundamentally important issues".

    Law ESA
    Year 2017
  • Vocational training and gender discrimination

    Case Sinead Brady v Co. Cavan VEC
    Topic

    The Commission granted legal assistance to Ms Brady in relation to a complaint of gender discrimination made under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 (EEA). Ms Brady was a full-time career guidance counsellor in a VEC school. While on maternity leave in 2012, and shortly after the birth of her first child, she was informed by the school that the Department of Education and Skills had issued a circular and that funding of her position as career guidance counsellor would be withdrawn. She was offered a different teaching position but she complained that this was notreflective of her teaching experience.

    Outcome

    The Workplace Relations Commission found that Ms Brady was entitled to return to work to the same or suitable alternative position and that this did not happen in her
    case. Due to the manner in which the change in position had been dealt with, and the fact that Ms Brady was on protected leave, the WRC found that Ms Brady had been discriminated against for the purposes of the EEA. The WRC ordered that the respondents pay a sum of €40,000 compensation for the effects of discrimination. The WRC further ordered that the respondent “equality proof” the policies and procedures surrounding the local
    implementation of the Department of Education and Skills circular, in light of this complaint.

    Law EEA
    Year 2016
  • Exploitation and disrimination of an EU worker

    Case A former employee v An employer
    Topic

    The Commission provided legal assistance (including legal representation before the WRC) to an EU national who was subject to severe labour exploitation at a family-run bed and breakfast. This included claims for non-payment of wages, holidays, rest breaks and overtime, as well as alleged discrimination on grounds of race, disability, gender and civil status.

    Outcome

    The matter was listed for hearing before the WRC in September 2016 – however the case settled. The terms of the settlement were as follows: the former employee received €20,000 from the employer as well as an acknowledgment that the employer would respect their obligations under employment legislation going forward. The employer further agreed to provide a good reference and not to say or write anything negative about their former employee. Separately, the employer was also convicted of offences of failure to keep properrecords, and producing false and misleading records under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 and not paying the minimum wage under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.

    Law EEA
    Year 2016
  • Dismissed for having disability

    Case Stephen Dunne v. Sky Handling Partner Limited
    Topic

    Mr. Stephen Dunne was dismissed from his employment as an Aircraft Service Agent with Sky Handling Partner Ltd specifically due to his dyspraxia.

    Outcome

    The WRC adjudication found the company had failed to provide reasonable accommodation and that Mr Dunne discriminatorily dismissed. Sky Handling Partner Ltd was ordered to review its employment procedures and to pay Mr. Dunne €15,000 in compensation, the equivalent of 18 months’ pay.

    Law EEA
    Year 2019
  • Gender discrimination and club membership

    Case A member of a Club v Chairman of Board of Management, General Manager, & Board of Management of a Club
    Topic

    The Commission granted legal assistance to a member of a private club who claimed that she had been discriminated against within the meaning of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 on the ground of gender in relation to certain membership rules and practices that applied to female members of the Respondent club only. She also claimed to have been harassed and victimised because of raising complaints of gender discrimination. The Respondent club was a registered (i.e. licensed) club under the Registration of Clubs Acts, 1904 to 1999. The Complainant lodged complaints with the former Equality Tribunal, now the WRC. This matter raised issues relating to the
    potential application of the EU Council Directive
    2004/113/EC implementing the principle of
    equal treatment between men and women in
    the access to and supply of goods and services
    (the Gender Goods and Services Directive)
    to complaints against private clubs and the
    interpretation of the meaning of ‘private and
    family life’ in the Gender Goods and Services
    Directive. It also involved consideration of
    the appropriate forum for the hearing of such
    complaints in circumstances where the Acts
    provide that complaints regarding discriminating
    registered clubs should be heard in the District
    Court, and not the WRC nor Circuit Court. The
    appropriateness of existing remedies under the
    Acts when interpreted in light of the Gender
    Goods and Services Directive was also relevant
    given that there is no existing mechanism for
    individual redress under the ESA for complaints
    against discriminating registered clubs.

    Outcome

    The complaint was listed for hearing before the WRC on 7 April 2016; however, the matter was settled to the satisfaction of all parties on this date. The settlement provided for a change to certain existing practices at the club to ensure equality of treatment for female members of the Respondent club.  

    Law ESA
    Year 2016