Traveller Law Database
Bridget Power v. Atlantic Troy Limited Charleville Park Hotel ADJ-00026062
|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:
Bridget Power 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. They 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 hotel 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 Bridget Power’s 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, see link to her case above.
Bridget Power did not make the booking herself. However, Bridget Power was excluded from the hotel because the person who made the booking and 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), Bridget Power was treated less favourably than any person who is not a member of the Traveller Community.
Bridget Power was awarded €4500 in compensation. The award was intended as a deterrent, such that the hotel might review its policy in light of this decision, and takes account of the inconvenience and embarrassment caused.
The award takes account of the fact that, although she was discriminated against by association with a person who is a Traveller, the economic argument which applied to that person (a Traveller who was unemployed), and therefore the comparative levels of disadvantage on that basis, did not apply in the case of Bridget Power, as she was employed at the time. The booking policy could have allowed her to provide a credit card in her own name.