Traveller Law Database
A Minor v. Atlantic Troy Limited T/A Charleville Park Hotel ADJ-00020727
|Date of Decision:||Wed, 16 Feb 2022|
|Decision Making Body:||Workplace Relations Commission|
|Law Applied:||Equal Status Acts (2000-2018)|
|Keywords:||Traveller, Housing Assistance, Social Welfare, Hotel, Accommodation, Credit Card, Discrimination, Amended Complaint, Leisure Facilities.|
|Full Case Details - Download Full Judgment (pdf)|
A family were refused emergency hotel accommodation on the basis that the person who booked could not pay by credit card. The Workplace Relations Commission found this refusal to be a device to deny accommodation on two grounds that the persons received Housing Assistance and that they were members of the Traveller Community, contrary to sections 3(b) and 6 of the Equal Status Act 2000.
These findings relate to four separate complaints, relating to one incident:
The other cases are:
Facts and submissions:
In September 2018, Bridget O’Reilly, her partner Philip O’Neill, and their two children (one of which is the named complainant) were declared homeless and began to receive Housing Assistance. Ms. O’Reilly booked a hotel room for three nights, using a visa debit card for the purposes of securing emergency accommodation. They arrived at the hotel the following day with a Community Welfare Officer who had a cheque to pay the amount required but were refused accommodation on the ground that a credit card in the name of the person making the booking was required as security. Ms. O’Reilly’s solicitor later offered to pay with her credit card, but the receptionist insisted that it must be in the name of the person seeking accommodation. Ms. O’Reilly made a complaint that the real ground for refusal of accommodation was that she received Housing Assistance, actioning s.6 and s. 3(b) Equal Status Act 2000-2018 which provide that a person shall not discriminate in providing accommodation (s.6) and specifically those in receipt of housing assistance or any payment under social welfare cannot be discriminated against (s.3(b)) on this basis.
Notwithstanding this, the hotel, in their response to the complaint made extensive reference to the family’s membership of the Traveller Community, despite Ms O’Reilly never disclosing her identity during interactions with the hotel. As membership of the Traveller Community is a further protected ground under the Equal Status Act, the complaint was thus amended to include that ground in respect of the hotel’s discrimination on this basis
The hotel argued that their credit card policy was “sacrosanct.” Citing in particular, a past situation in which another Traveller family had receive emergency accommodation at the hotel on the basis that this was short-term while they waited for local authority housing. However, their stay at the hotel had continued for twelve months during which time the hotel had experienced significant damage. The hotel further arguing that as the Council took the view that these families had a place to live that no effort had been made to relocate them. The hotel stressed that this had caused issues and that the hotel was a wholly unsuitable place for such long-term emergency accommodation provision. In defence of the allegations of discrimination against members of the Traveller Community, they argued that there were Traveller members of its leisure club and therefore this proved that the hotel does not discriminate against Travellers.
The Adjudicating Officer found that the credit card requirement was not as sacrosanct as claimed, that there was no explicit reference to a credit-card-only policy in hotel policy at the time, and that there was interchangeability between credit card and debit card at the time of the booking.
Housing Assistance Ground:
The Adjudicating Officer further found that it became obvious during the hearing that the hotel had already adopted a strong pre-determined position not to allow those on Housing Assistance to be accommodated in the hotel. This was reinforced by the admission that the purported change of policy to allow final bookings by credit card only was a direct result of the hotel’s aforementioned experience of having two families previously at the hotel who were in receipt of Housing Assistance. He was satisfied that the hotel had full knowledge that Mr. O’Neill and Ms O’Reilly and the two dependent children (one of whom is the complainant), as social welfare recipients in receipt of Housing Assistance, would not readily have a credit card and, therefore, that the insistence on a credit card was a device to deny accommodation to them. This was therefore a prima facie case of discriminatory treatment, unrebutted by the hotel, contrary to s.6 and s.3(b) of the Equal Status Act 2000-2018.
Traveller Community Ground:
The Adjudicating Officer found firstly that the provision of leisure facilities differs substantially from the provision of accommodation. He found that in putting forward the argument of its negative experience of providing accommodation to a Traveller family in the past, the hotel sought to portray all Traveller families in the same light, which raised a serious presumption of discrimination that it did not satisfactorily rebut. Therefore, on the balance of probabilities, membership of the Traveller Community was a material fact, which in part led to the refusal of accommodation, so again an unrebutted prima facie case of discriminatory treatment, contrary to section 3 of the Equal Status Act.
The Adjudicating Officer stated that to deny emergency accommodation for just three nights to a family who were both homeless and members of a vulnerable minority at the margins of society not only breached the statute but also fell below the threshold of decency that reasonable people expect of the hospitality sector. He directed compensation of €8,000 each for both Ms. O’Reilly and her partner Philip O’Neill, and €3,000 each for both of her children. He also directed the revision of the hotel’s credit-card requirement.