Hotel asks court to set aside finding it discriminated against Traveller woman

WRC found Bunratty Castle Hotel should pay woman who attempted to book wedding €15,000

Bunratty Castle Hotel Ltd claims the WRC heard the complaint without the hotel’s representatives being present. Photograph: Google Street View

Bunratty Castle Hotel Ltd claims the WRC heard the complaint without the hotel’s representatives being present. Photograph: Google Street View

 

The operator of Bunratty Castle Hotel wants the High Court to overturn a finding by the Workplace Relations Commission that it discriminated against a member of the Traveller community and should pay her €15,000 compensation.

The hotel, located close to Shannon Airport in Co Clare, claims the finding is flawed.

Bunratty Castle Hotel Ltd claims the WRC heard the complaint without the hotel’s representatives being present.

The hotel says it did not attend because correspondence from the WRC about the hearing was sent to the wrong email address.

The complaint to the WRC was made under the Equal Status Act by Nora Ward who approached the hotel with a view to booking the venue for her wedding.

In its judicial review proceedings against the WRC, and the deciding officer in the case, Ray Flaherty, the hotel wants orders quashing the WRC’s decision and directing the complaint be determined in accordance with law.

Represented by Lorcan Connolly BL, the hotel says it had had the original August date hearing of the complaint adjourned to a new date.

It expected to be informed by the WRC of the new date, but did not receive any response.

In January, it learned from a media report a finding of discrimination has been made against an hotel, where the facts outlined were similar to the allegations made against it.

It discovered, unknown to it, the hearing had taken place last September and a decision was published in January.

It also claims that correspondence, including the complainant’s submissions, from the WRC had been sent to the wrong email address.

It claims the correspondence should have been sent to weddings@bunrattycastlehotel.com but was in fact sent to weddings@bunrattycastle.com , not an address used by it. .

It claims it has been denied a hearing at first instance, and has been exposed to greater sanctions and to publicity.

In its decision, the WRC said the hotel had been dismissive in its contacts with the woman after she provided information that would have identified her as a Traveller. The WRC also referred to the failure of the hotel to appropriately engage with it.

In her complaint, Ms Ward said she contacted the hotel in July 2019 by email about holding her wedding, with 100 to 120 guests. She claimed she received an email response that was positive, inviting her to a wedding showcase event.

On the day of that event, Ms Ward said she supplied her surname and that of her fiance to the hotel.

She told the WRC, when she turned up at the hotel, a staff member she had been in contact with was “aloof and rushed”. She claimed the staff member did not bring her on a tour of the venue, although another couple there told her they had been brought on a tour.

Mrs Ward submitted she and her family members, who attended the wedding showcase event with her, were readily identifiable as members of the Traveller community.

She said the staff member told her she would be in contact about available dates.

Two days later, Ms Ward said she contacted the staff member inquiring about dates, but received no response.

Ms Ward said her treatment left her feeling “devastated, humiliated and like a second-class citizen”.

The deciding officer found against the hotel and awarded her €15,000, the maximum award possible.

When the judicial review proceedings came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan, he granted the hotel’s ex-parte application for permission to bring the challenge.

The matter will return before the court in May.