Traveller Law Database
Annalise Power v. Atlantic Troy Limited Charleville Park Hotel & Leisure Club ADJ-00026060
|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:
Annalise Power booked a hotel online, but on arriving with her two companions 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 based 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 Annalise Power 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 themselves 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 by the Respondent to be, a member of a protected category. In addition, because members of the Traveller Community are more likely to experience poor economic status the Complainant is more likely than not to be at a disadvantage compared to others in the adult community as a whole. The application of the policy of refusing accommodation based on a failure to present a credit card was not found to be appropriate and proportionate. Other means of achieving the legitimate aim could have been offered but were not.
Annalise Power was awarded €3500 in compensation. The award would have been greater but for remarks she made to the hotel manager regarding his nationality.
The judgment explicitly stopped short of requiring any blanket change of policy by the hotel, but significant compensation was justified as a deterrent to the simplistic nature of the policy, and to encourage reconsideration of it.