Traveller Law Database
Caroline Maughan v. Poundland Limited Dealz ADJ-0002-6693
|Date of Decision:||Thu, 17 Feb 2022|
|Decision Making Body:||Workplace Relations Commission|
|Law Applied:||Equal Status Acts (2000-2018)|
|Keywords:||Section 25 of the Equal Status Acts, Discrimination, Sale of Goods and Services, Retail|
|Full Case Details - Download Full Judgment (pdf)|
The Complainant was successful in her case before the Workplace Relations Commission regarding being refused goods and services on a discriminatory basis, based on her membership of the Traveller Community.
Summary of Complainant’s case:
Ms Maughan, the Complainant, submitted that she was discriminated against by the Respondent, its servants, or agents, on the grounds of her membership of the Traveller Community on 25 November 2019, contrary to s.3 of the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018. She entered the Respondent’s premises with her husband, and while shopping received assistance from Staff Member A. Upon completion of her shopping, she proceeded to the self-service check out. She encountered issues scanning certain items and called to Staff Member B for assistance, whom she noted was Irish.
This member of staff also encountered problems scanning the items and replaced one of the items for the Complainant. She continued scanning and having six identical items, she scanned the same item six times for convenience. While she was doing this Staff Member A approached her and expressed his discontent at this. He then took her basket to a standard till and asked the Complainant to come to the till for him to serve her. The Complainant expressed her discontent with this and explained that she was happy to scan her items. She also explained that she had previously called Staff Member B for assistance, who then intervened on her behalf saying she had done nothing wrong. Staff Member A proceeded to ask the Complainant to leave the premises, she questioned whether he was discriminating against her based on her being a Traveller, to which he replied that he had the right to refuse entry to anyone and that he was going to call the Gardaí. The Complainant’s husband testified that he had money to pay for the goods, but they decided it was best to leave the shop at that point. The Complainant further testified that she walked out with embarrassment and had cried after the event. She said she felt like a nobody and that she did not want her children growing up like this.
The Complainant submitted that she was treated less favourably than the other customers on the grounds of her membership of the Traveller Community. Thus, the Respondent’s refusal to serve her was clearly on discriminatory grounds, that her status as a member of the Traveller Community was clear, and that the Respondent’s response of the right to refuse anyone could not rebut the Complainant’s establishment of a prima facie case of discrimination.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The Respondent provided a detailed written submission; no witnesses attended the hearing and the submission outlined below is based on the written submission only. The Respondent denied any claims of discrimination.
The Respondent submitted that when the Complainant had issues with the self-service checkout, it was only Staff Member A that assisted her; Staff Member B was stated never to have provided her with assistance. The Respondent submitted that upon being given assistance by Staff Member A the Complainant became very aggressive towards him, raising her voice and cursing at him. It was at this stage that Staff Member A asked the Complainant to leave the shop as she was being offensive. The Respondent also submitted that they were unaware of the Complainant’s Traveller status and made no reference to it in the confrontation. Thus, the Respondent submitted that she was asked to leave the premises based on her aggressive behaviour and abusive language. No response was provided to the question as to why the Respondent had failed to reply to the ES1 form sent by the Complainant.
The Complainant agreed that she had become very annoyed, spoken loudly and that as the confrontation grew heated, used profanities.
The Respondent submitted that at no point was the Complainant “forced” to leave the shop as alleged and denied she was not allowed purchase goods. The Respondent submitted that it had established clear grounds that at no point was the Complainant discriminated against on the grounds of her membership of the Traveller Community while present in their store.
The WRC Adjudication Officer noted, that given Staff Member B was Irish, he must have been aware of her status as a member of the Traveller Community. The Adjudication Officer found that on the balance of probabilities, the treatment afforded to the Complainant would not have been afforded to a person who was not a member of the Traveller Community.
Given that the Complainant’s uncontradicted evidence established a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden of proof shifted to the Respondent to rebut the inference of discrimination.
The adjudicator noted that the Respondent provided no witnesses to rebut the Complainant’s evidence, and that CCTV footage with no sound did not provide meaningful evidence. The lack of reply to the ES1 form was also found to be telling.
The Adjudication Officer found that the complaint was well-founded and given the distress the situation caused the Complainant, compensation was warranted.
Therefore, in accordance with Section 27 of the Equal Status Act, the Adjudication Officer ordered the Respondent to pay the Complainant €4,000 in compensation in respect of the finding of discrimination on the ground of membership of the Traveller Community.