A Longford skip hire company which denied discrimination after telling a Traveller “we won’t deliver a skip into a halting site directly” has been ordered to pay him €2,000 in compensation.
The Workplace Relations Commission has upheld a complaint made under the Equal Status Act against Mulleady’s Limited by Martin Mongan, who said he was left “disgusted, embarrassed and upset” after trying to book a skip by phone on February 4th, 2021.
His case was that he had been discriminated against as a member of the Travelling Community.
At a hearing in June, the WRC was played a recording taken by the company of a phone call between Mr Mongan and the company’s skip manager.
“Where are you?,” the skip manager was heard to ask.
“The halting site,” Mr Mongan replied.
“We won’t deliver a skip to the halting site anyway,” the manager said.
When Mr Mongan asked why, the answer was: “Because of where it is.”
When the complainant told her that the company’s refusal to deliver a skip was racist, the manager replied: “It’s for the safety of the skip.”
The tribunal was told the company would not leave a skip at the site for any longer than six hours a day — terms Mr Mongan said at the hearing “[would] not be any use to him” and that he did not accept it.
The tribunal was told Mr Mongan’s home is a halting site with two caravan bays where he lives with his wife and children, alongside his wife’s family.
A Free Legal Advice Centre solicitor who appeared for Mr Mongan said the phone call with the skip manager was a “car crash”.
He said Mulleady’s Ltd had “directly discriminated” against his client by initially refusing to deliver a skip to the halting site and then by refusing to deliver to the site on the same terms offered to other customers.
The Flac representative said this was done “without any basis for the differential treatment”.
Mr Mongan’s case was that the skip manager had used a “condescending tone, raised her voice and spoke across the complainant” during the phone call.
He said the phone call had a “huge” impact on him and that he was left feeling ashamed of where he lived.
The company, which was represented at hearing by Connellan Solicitors, termed Mr Mongan’s account of the phone call as “largely inaccurate”.
It denied refusing to deliver a skip to Mr Mongan’s address, arguing it had been willing to deliver for a six-hour period so it would not be left overnight.
The company said that policy applied to certain areas including housing estates, where in Longford Town, Ballymahon and Mullingar, where the contents of skips had been set on fire overnight, causing damage to the skip — and that third parties had also dumped refuse in the skips, leaving them overloaded.
The company’s solicitor argued Mr Mongan was treated differently “because of where he resided, not because his membership of the Travelling Community”.
“Such discrimination is not unlawful, and the applicant is not entitled to compensation,” the firm’s solicitor added.
The company’s case was that it was “for that reason and that reason alone” it would not leave skips overnight in certain locations.
The company’s managing director said this policy covered industrial estates like the immediate neighbourhood of Mr Mongan’s halting site.
The skip manager who spoke with Mr Mongan by phone said in evidence that her own brother-in-law was from a Traveller background and that she “would not countenance any type of discrimination”, the adjudicator noted.
She said that when she told Mr Mongan the firm would not deliver “because of where it is” she said she was referring to the industrial estate.
“It is notable that the respondent staff member’s initial reaction was that it would not provide the skip hire to the complainant. She later offered a reduced service when an allegation of discrimination was made,” wrote adjudicating officer Marguerite Buckley in her decision, which was published on Friday morning.
Ms Buckley wrote that the company’s defence required “evidence of substantial risk of damage to property”.
She noted that Mr Mongan had explained on the phone to the skip manager that he planned to clean up tyres he said had been dumped near the halting site.
Ms Buckley said the managing director had given a general statement about the firm’s policy about industrial estates but “did not provide any direct evidence of a substantial risk of damage to the skip” in the circumstances.
She wrote that the company had failed to rebut the prima facie case of discrimination raised by Mr Mongan and upheld his complaint.
Ms Buckley made an order for compensation for €2,000 against the firm.