Traveller Law Database
Ann Stokes v. Atlantic Troy Limited Charleville Park Hotel & Leisure Club ADJ-00026051
|Date of Decision:||Wed, 19 Jan 2022|
|Decision Making Body:||Workplace Relations Commission|
|Law Applied:||Equal Status Acts (2000-2018), EU Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC)|
|Keywords:||EU Directive 97/80/EC, Hotel, Discrimination, Section 3 of the Equal Status Acts, Statistical Comparison, Unemployment, Objectively Justified, Discrimination by Association.|
|Full Case Details - Download Full Judgment (pdf)|
A group of three Travellers arrived at a hotel, having booked online but were refused accommodation on arriving, on the ground that a credit card was required. This was found by the Workplace Relations Commission to be discriminatory because the financial requirements involved in having a credit card put members of the Traveller Community at a significant disadvantage in comparison to others. The hotel’s policy was not objectively justified.
This case is based on the same facts as the following cases:
Ann Stokes and two others were booked into a hotel. The booking was made by Annalise Power. On arriving, they were refused accommodation on the basis that they could not pay by credit card. The Complainant argued that this was an excuse and that they were discriminated against based solely on their membership of the Traveller Community, but also that the policy was discriminatory in nature. The Respondent argued that this policy applied to everyone and was intended to protect the hotel against financial loss due to unpaid additional bills or damage.
Section 3(1) (c) of the Equal Status Act, in defining discrimination, provides “where an apparently neutral provision would put a person [including a member of the Traveller Community compared to a person who is not a member of the Traveller Community] … at a particular disadvantage compared to other persons unless the provision is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim is proportionate and necessary’
There are therefore three tests to be applied.
- Is the policy neutral, in that it applies to all who want to stay at the hotel?
- Does that neutral provision place a member of the Traveller Community at a particular disadvantage compared to other persons?
- Is the measure objectively justifiable in that it serves a legitimate aim and the means of achieving the aim are appropriate and necessary?
The policy did apply to all who stayed at the hotel.
The disadvantage, in this case, is measured by comparing the effect of the measure, of requiring a credit card, on members of the Traveller Community compared with those who are not members of the Traveller Community. For this purpose, the comparator was the wider population of Ireland in terms of holding credit cards. Given the financial requirements imposed on anyone who wishes to own a credit card, and the substantially higher level of unemployment among Travellers, there was a basis to conclude that the neutral provision of requiring a credit card would place a member of the Traveller Community at a particular disadvantage compared to other adults in Ireland. Therefore, the policy of the hotel in refusing accommodation to Ann Stokes’ companion on the basis of her not being able to provide a credit card was an act of discrimination against her as a member of the Traveller Community.
3 Objectively Justifiable
Finally, on the third test, the hotel claimed that it required credit cards in order to protect itself against unpaid bills and damages. This is a legitimate aim, but it was not appropriate or necessary since it would not in fact protect them, and other measures could have been used, such as a cash deposit or limiting access to certain services.
Moreover, even if another hotel in Ireland or hotels in other countries operate the same practice, it does not render that practice lawful under the Equal Status Act.
The blanket insistence on a credit card is unacceptable when the failure to provide that card is then used as the means of turning away a person who is and was known to be, a member of a protected category and who, because of their poor economic status which is well known and understood in Ireland, is more likely than not to be at a disadvantage compared to others in the adult community as a whole, and when other means of achieving the legitimate aim could have been offered but were not.
Discrimination by association
All of this applies to Ann Stokes’ companion who made the booking and was largely extracted by the adjudicator in the judgment from a case taken by her companion who made the booking, Annalise Power v Atlantic Troy Limited Charleville Park Hotel & Leisure Club ADJ-26060. As the Complainant did not make the booking herself, is an old-age pensioner, and does not have a credit card, no claim could be made under Section 3(1) of the Equal Status Act on that ground, since thousands of people in Ireland fall into this category and the majority of those people are not members of the Traveller Community. However, Ann Stokes was excluded from the hotel because Annalise Power with whom she was associated as part of that booking was the subject of discrimination, as was found, on grounds of her Traveller status. By virtue of that association (under Article 3(1)(b) of the Equal Status Act), Anne Stokes was treated less favourably than any person who is not a member of the Traveller Community.
The Complainant was awarded €8000 in compensation. The WRC found that significant compensation was justified in this case to act as a deterrent, encouraging the hotel to review its policy in light of this decision. Also, the fact that the hotel turned away an elderly person with health issues, who had travelled some distance, represented a significant impact based on discrimination.