Traveller Law Database

Catherine Dooley, Bridget Dooley & Margaret Dooley v. The Cutting Crew Hairdressing Salon, Cork DEC-S2002-023/024/025

Date of Decision: Wed, 30 Mar 2022
Decision Making Body: Equality Tribunal
Law Applied: Equal Status Acts (2000-2018)
Keywords: Burden of Proof Directive (Council Directive 97/80/EC), Discrimination, Discrimination by Association, Refusal of Service, Prima Facie Case
Full Case Details - Download Full Judgment (pdf)

Catherine Dooley, Bridget Dooley, and Margaret Dooley claimed before the Equality Tribunal that they were refused service at Cutting Crew Hairdressing Salon on the basis of their status as members of the Traveller Community. The salon argued that they were denied service due to previous unacceptable behaviour at the premises. The Equality Officer concluded that the Dooleys failed to establish a prima facie case under the Equal Status Act 2000 and found in favour of the salon.


Catherine Dooley, her sister Bridget Dooley, and their cousin Margaret Dooley attended the Cutting Crew hairdressing salon on 29th May 2001. None of them had an appointment for this date. Catherine Dooley asked to have her hair highlighted but was refused service by the proprietor of the salon, Frank Walsh. Neither of her companions requested service. There were only 2 clients in the salon at the time, and there was capacity for more clients.  


Catherine Dooley submitted that upon requesting service at the salon, she was informed by Mr Walsh that they were booked out and that she could not make an appointment for a later date. Bridget Dooley asked another member of staff for his name, which was supplied to them, and the group then left upon the proprietor’s request. They argued that they were refused service due to their status as Travellers. They claimed that they would have been recognised as Travellers, due to their distinctive accent and style, particularly in relation to jewellery. Bridget Dooley submitted that they were shocked and embarrassed to have been refused service at the salon.

Catherine Dooley also stated that she usually gets her hair done in Peters Mark, Midleton. She had gone to this hairdressing salon earlier on the day in question, but they did not have an available appointment for 3 days. She could not wait for this appointment as she had been invited to an engagement party of a “friend of a friend” and she wanted to get her hair done a few weeks beforehand so that if there were any problems, she could fix them prior to the celebration.

Frank Walsh, the proprietor of the salon, stated that Catherine Dooley had been to the salon approximately 2 years ago. At the time, the salon was busy and she was offered an appointment for a later date. Mr Walsh submitted that Ms Dooley verbally abused him, and he asked her to leave. She then returned to the salon 6 months later and was refused service because of her previous behaviour. Two staff members at the salon confirmed the evidence of Mr Walsh. Audrey Walsh, his wife, also confirmed that she had been aware of an individual who had become abusive towards Mr Walsh prior to the 29th May 2001, and after the incident in question, he told her that it was the same person, Catherine Dooley. Ms Dooley submitted that she had previously been to the Cutting Crew salon approximately 3 years ago with her sister-in-law who wanted to have her hair done for her wedding. She claimed that they were refused service for no apparent reason on this occasion, and they were both horrified at this refusal at the time. She further confirmed that her sister-in-law, her brother, and their child do now use the salon.

Two staff members at the salon, Paula Collins and Noreen O’Shea submitted that on one occasion, after Ms Dooley’s first visit to the salon, she had shouted insults at them as they returned to the salon after lunch. Catherine Dooley claimed that this incident never happened.

Mr Walsh submitted that he refused to service Catherine Dooley on 29th May 2001 due to her previous unacceptable behaviour. He did not refuse service to Bridget or Margaret Dooley as neither asked for service of any kind. Mr Walsh stated that he only recognised that Catherine Dooley was a Traveller when she first visited the salon and began shouting verbal abuse at him, as her accent became very pronounced. He further stated that he did not have a policy of refusing service to any particular client or group of clients and that he had served Travellers in the past, including members of Catherine Dooley’s family. He claimed that he had never refused service to a client based on their status as a Traveller, and the only reason Catherine Dooley was refused service was because of her previous behaviour.


The Dooleys brought their complaint on the basis that they were discriminated against because of their status as Travellers or because the salon associated them with other Travellers who had caused trouble in the premises. The Equality Officer considered the three elements necessary to establish a prima facie case of discrimination; membership of the Traveller community, evidence of specific treatment of the Complainant by the Respondent, and evidence that the Complainant was treated less favourably than another non-Traveller would have been in similar circumstances.

This approach was provided for under the Burden of Proof Directive, which was not directly applicable to this complaint, but the Equality Officer stated that the Directive had a persuasive effect on discrimination law. It was also noted that the Labour Court and Equality Officers had consistently applied this approach to discrimination law prior to the Directive. In considering what constitutes a prima facie case, the Equality Officer considered Article 4 of the Directive, which defined it as where a complainant provides evidence from which discrimination may be presumed to have occurred.

Catherine Dooley stated that she and her sister-in-law had visited the salon previously to have their hair done for the sister-in-law’s wedding, without an appointment. They were refused service at this time. She further stated that the same sister-in-law still uses this salon now. The Equality Officer noted the evidence of the Complainants that Travellers place great importance on events such as engagements, so much so that they would start preparing for an event involving "a friend of a friend" several weeks in advance. The Equality Officer stated that it was not believable that a Traveller would visit a hair salon on her wedding day without an appointment, and even if this were to be believed, it would be difficult to accept that it would be shocking to the bride that there were no available appointments. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a person who was refused service on such an important day would then return to the same salon for service. Catherine Dooley failed to provide a reason why the salon would provide service to her sister-in-law now, if they refused her service previously on the basis of her status as a Traveller.

The Equality Officer observed that Catherine Dooley had stated that she had been refused immediate service in Peter Marks earlier on the day in the question yet did not regard this as discriminatory. She also stated that she could not wait three days for their next available appointment, which is contrary to her evidence that she requested an appointment at Cutting Crew salon.


The Equality Officer was satisfied that all three Complainants were Travellers. Both parties gave evidence that Catherine Dooley was refused service, so the Equality Officer was also satisfied that she received specific treatment from the salon. As neither Bridget nor Margaret Dooley requested service at the salon, they did not fulfil this element and did not establish a prima facie case of discrimination.

The Equality Officer did not accept Catherine Dooley’s evidence that she was unable to accept an appointment with Peter Mark for three days into the future due to her rush to get her hair done. She would have had ample time to deal with any issues with her hair prior to the event. Thus, it was concluded that her evidence was "completely inconsistent and entirely lacking in credibility". The Equality Officer preferred the evidence on behalf of the salon, which was described as "consistent, credible, [and] compelling".

On the balance of probabilities, it was found that Catherine Dooley was denied service at the salon due to her previous unacceptable behaviour. The Equality Officer was satisfied that any other person would be refused service in the same circumstances.

The Equality Officer further stated that the Complainants claimed that they were discriminated against by association with other Travellers who had previously caused trouble at the salon, yet the Equal Status Act 2000 only covers discrimination purely by association with other Travellers. They had not argued this, instead claiming association with poor behaviour on the part of others. This would not amount to discrimination under the Act.

Therefore, none of the three complainants established a prima facie case of discrimination. The salon was entitled to refuse service to Catherine Dooley based on her previous behaviour.

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