Different kinds of discrimination in relation to services


The law which deals with discrimination in relation to goods and services is the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 (‘the ESA’).  The ESA aim to ensure that people are treated equally in the provision of a wide range of goods and services.

The ESA explains the different kinds of discrimination in relation to services which are against the law.

The ESA protects nine categories of persons generally, and ten groups of person in relation to accommodation.  Not all differences of treatment are seen as discrimination under the ESA.

Direct discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably than other people because of who they are.

Indirect discrimination occurs where an apparently neutral provision would put a person at a particular disadvantage on any of the nine discriminatory grounds, provided this is not objectively justified by a legitimate aim, is appropriate and necessary.

Example A gym asks for a permanent address when a person applies for membership. The gym may not mean to discriminate, but the effect of the rule is that it may be harder members of the Traveller community to join the gym than it is for other people to do so. In this case, the gym would have to show that this requirement pursues a legitimate aim, and is appropriate and necessary.  If they cannot, the request will be discriminatory.

Discrimination by association is when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of who they know or are connected to.

Example A person is refused a service because they are married to a person of a different religion.

Discrimination by imputation is when someone is treated less favourably than another person because they are labelled as being in one of the nine grounds.

Example A shop refuses entry to a person because they think they have a disability.

Unwanted, hostile behaviour because of who you are (harassment) and unwanted behaviour of a sexual nature (sexual harassment) are also unlawful under the ESA. So is victimisation, which is when a service provider treats someone less favourably, or refuses them a service, because they have made a complaint related to equality law.

Do you think you any of these kinds of discrimination have happened or, are happening to you?