The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 in Ireland prohibits discrimination against employees and job applicants on the basis of certain protected characteristics, known as the 9 grounds of discrimination. These grounds cover a wide range of personal characteristics, and employers must ensure that they do not discriminate against employees or job applicants on any of these grounds.
- Gender The first ground of discrimination is gender. It is illegal to discriminate on the basis of a person’s gender, including sexual harassment, unequal pay, or gender-specific job requirements. This means that employers must treat male and female employees equally, without favoring one gender over the other.
- Civil Status Discrimination based on a person’s civil status, such as being single, married, separated, divorced, or widowed, is prohibited. Employers cannot make decisions based on an employee’s civil status, such as denying a promotion to a married employee.
- Family Status Employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their family status, such as having children or being a carer for a family member. This means that employers must ensure that employees with caregiving responsibilities are not treated unfairly.
- Age Discrimination on the basis of age, including both younger and older workers, is prohibited. Employers cannot make decisions based on a person’s age, such as denying a job to an older worker.
- Disability It is illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities, including physical or mental disabilities, chronic illnesses, or learning difficulties. Employers must ensure that employees with disabilities are given equal opportunities for employment, training, and promotion.
- Race Discrimination based on race, including nationality, ethnicity, skin color, or accent, is prohibited. This means that employers cannot make decisions based on a person’s race, such as denying a job to a person because of their accent.
- Religious belief Discrimination based on a person’s religious beliefs or practices, including discrimination against non-believers, is prohibited. Employers must respect an employee’s religious beliefs and make reasonable accommodations for them, such as allowing time off for religious holidays.
- Sexual orientation Employers cannot discriminate based on a person’s sexual orientation, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual individuals. This means that employers must ensure that all employees are treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.
- Membership of the Traveller community Discrimination based on membership of the Traveller community, including discrimination based on a person’s perceived association with the Traveller community, is prohibited. Employers must ensure that members of the Traveller community are given equal opportunities for employment, training, and promotion.
Notable Employment Discrimination Case Law
There have been several notable workplace discrimination cases in Ireland in recent years. Here are some examples of such cases:
- Kearney v Minister for Justice and Equality (2019) In this case, a female police officer sued the Irish State for gender discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. The court found that the police force had failed to provide adequate training on equality and diversity, and that the officer had been subjected to a hostile work environment due to her gender. She was awarded €7,500 in compensation.
- McMenamin v CityJet Limited (2018) In this case, a male flight attendant sued his employer for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. He alleged that he had been harassed and bullied by his colleagues due to his sexuality. The court found that the employer had failed to take adequate steps to address the harassment, and awarded the employee €20,000 in compensation.
- Halpin v Dublin Bus (2018) In this case, a male bus driver sued his employer for discrimination on the grounds of disability. He alleged that the employer had failed to make reasonable accommodations for his hearing impairment, and had denied him a promotion due to his disability. The court found that the employer had breached the employee’s rights under the Employment Equality Acts, and awarded him €70,000 in compensation.
- Equality Tribunal v Revenue Commissioners (2017) In this case, the Irish Equality Tribunal brought a case against the Revenue Commissioners, alleging that the organisation had discriminated against a job applicant on the grounds of age. The job applicant had applied for a position as a clerical officer, but had been rejected due to being over 65 years of age. The court found that the Revenue Commissioners had breached the applicant’s rights under the Employment Equality Acts, and awarded him €2,500 in compensation.
- Kinsella v Irish Prison Service (2015) In this case, a female prison officer sued her employer for gender discrimination and victimisation. She alleged that she had been subjected to bullying and harassment by her male colleagues, and that her complaints had not been taken seriously by management. The court found that the employer had breached the employee’s rights under the Employment Equality Acts, and awarded her €50,000 in compensation.
These cases demonstrate the importance of understanding and complying with the 9 grounds of discrimination in Irish employment law. Employers who fail to prevent workplace discrimination can face legal action and significant financial penalties. It is crucial for employers to ensure that their workplace policies and practices are in line with the law, and that all employees are treated with fairness and respect.
If you are a victim of workplace discrimination in Ireland, there are several steps you can take to address the situation:
- Informal Resolution: You may wish to address the issue informally by speaking to the person who is responsible for the discrimination, or to a manager or human resources representative. Explain the situation and how it is affecting you, and try to come to a resolution together.
- Formal Complaint: If the discrimination continues, you may wish to make a formal complaint to your employer. You should follow your company’s grievance procedure and provide details of the discrimination, including any witnesses or evidence that supports your claim.
- Contact a Union: If you are a member of a union, you can seek their advice and assistance in making a complaint about workplace discrimination.
- Contact the Workplace Relations Commission: If you are unable to resolve the issue through informal means or through your company’s grievance procedure, you can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The WRC is responsible for enforcing employment equality legislation and can investigate your complaint and try to find a resolution.
- Legal Action: If you have exhausted all other avenues and are still experiencing discrimination, you may wish to consider taking legal action. You can bring a claim for discrimination to the Circuit Court or the Workplace Relations Commission, and may be able to seek compensation for the harm caused to you as a result of the discrimination.
It is important to remember that discrimination in the workplace is illegal in Ireland, and employers have a legal obligation to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and with respect. If you are experiencing discrimination, it is important to take action to address the issue and protect your rights.
Employers must be aware of these grounds of discrimination and ensure that they do not discriminate against any employees or job applicants on any of these grounds. Employers who violate these laws can face legal action, including fines and compensation claims from employees who have been discriminated against.
It is also worth noting that you don’t have to be an employee of a company to make a discrimination claim. If you feel you have been discriminated against in a job interview you can also make a claim to the WRC.
The 9 grounds of discrimination in Irish employment law are an important protection for employees and job applicants. By understanding these grounds and taking steps to prevent discrimination, employers can create a fair and inclusive workplace where all employees can thrive
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, and should not be relied upon as such.
Aidan Duggan (Solicitor)