Family who refused to move cinema seats loses discrimination case
Gardaí were called to ‘Finding Dory’ screening due to the dispute over premium seating
According to a cinema representative at a hearing into the case where a family was asked to move seats, the father ‘became loud and abusive and demanded a refund, including for part-consumed food’.
Gardaí were called to a morning screening of the Disney children’s film Finding Dory when it had to be abandoned after a family refused to move from plush, premium recliner seats in the front row of a cinema.
The family was asked by an attendant to move only to nearby seats in the front row but declined and a heated row ensued. Details of what happened emerged in an unsuccessful discrimination case taken by the family against the cinema in question.
The family claimed discrimination on the grounds of family status under the Equal Status Act as they were not provided with accommodation for a child’s buggy.
However, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer, Pat Brady, in an assessment that is highly critical of the family, dismissed the claim as “vexatious and without any merit whatsoever”.
The case arose after the family went to the unidentified cinema on Sunday morning, November 13th, 2016, to see Finding Dory.
They bought standard “mini morning” tickets and were told they could sit anywhere they wished as there were only four other people in the cinema. They chose premium recliner seats in the front row which were each €5 dearer.
In his report, Mr Brady said: “It is hard to blame the family for sitting in them, but it is harder to believe that they really believed that the rather generalised advice that they could ‘sit anywhere’ included these seats. Perhaps they did.”
However, the family was asked by an attendant to move to other seats along the front row or pay the additional €5 charge per seat.
The family refused to move from the seats and, when they failed to do so, the screening was halted. According to a cinema representative at a hearing into the case, the father “became loud and abusive and demanded a refund including for part-consumed food”.
The other cinemagoers were brought to a different screen to see Finding Dory and the loud and abusive behaviour continued and the gardaí were called. The mother said the family left the cinema “feeling embarrassment and humiliation”.
The cinema stated there was no discriminating treatment and the reason the family was asked to move was because they had bought the wrong tickets.
Mr Brady said that it was “extraordinary” that on being advised of the position that the family refused to move “and proceeded to cause something of a fracas in the cinema resulting in disruption to other patrons”.
Matter of principle
He stated the mother “was being asked to move a matter of a couple of metres, horizontally to accommodation quite suitable for a family”.
Mr Brady records that when asked at the hearing why she did not do so the mother said that it was “a matter of principle”.
Mr Brady said that a matter of principle is variously defined as “something you feel you must do (or not do) because of your moral principles”.
He remarked: “It is hard to see an application of ‘moral principles’ to where one might sit on a Sunday morning in a cinema watching Finding Dory.”
He said: “There were further insights into the complainant’s attitude when she described her ‘embarrassment and humiliation’ on leaving the cinema. She and her family had the simplest of remedies for avoiding this humiliation had they been less obdurate about where they sat.”