Discrimination on age grounds most common complaint - report


DISCRIMINATION ON the grounds of age was the most common complaint among those who sought the help of the Equality Authority under the Employment Equality Acts last year.

Discrimination against those with disabilities was the most common issue under the Equal Status Acts, according to the authority's annual report, which will be launched today.

The legislation covers discrimination on nine grounds in employment and in the provision of goods and services: age, race, religion, gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, disability and membership of the Traveller community.

The Equality Authority was set up to promote equal treatment under these Acts and the EU Race Directive, including the taking of cases of an exemplary nature. The Equality Tribunal hears cases of alleged discrimination under the nine grounds.

The allegations of employment discrimination related to access to employment, equal pay, harassment and working conditions, as well as age limits in the workplace and forced retirement.

The allegations of discrimination against people with disabilities predominantly involved failure to make reasonable accommodation, as required by the legislation. In one landmark case a local authority was ordered to pay maximum compensation and construct an extension to a house to make it suitable to the needs of a child with autism, or provide alternative suitable accommodation.

There were a number of settlements of discrimination on the grounds of age in the provision of services, many of them relating to insurance.

The annual report showed that more than two-thirds (69 per cent) of the files under the Equal Status Act showed failures on the part of public sector bodies. Almost a third (29 per cent) of the files under the Employment Equality Act also related to the public sector.

Despite the fact that legislation outlawing discrimination on the grounds of gender has been in existence for 30 years, discrimination on this ground made up 18 per cent of all cases. These included cases involving promotion, sexual harassment and pregnancy-related discrimination.

A similar number of cases involved discrimination on the ground of race. In one of them a substantial amount was paid to a Filipino woman who worked in domestic employment as a live-in child carer. She was summarily dismissed when she returned from leave in the Philippines.

A local authority paid compensation to a single man in relation to its policy of not accepting housing applications from single men with no dependants.

The Traveller ground continued to feature prominently in Equal Status claims, and under the Intoxicating Liquor Act, under which claims against licensed premises must be taken following a change in the law. Allegations of discrimination predominantly related to public sector accommodation and primary education.

One primary school was ordered to pay the maximum compensation to a Traveller family for discriminating against their child.

A landmark victory was won when the HSE was ordered to pay compensation to a Traveller for obliging him to attend a central unit in Dublin for payment of supplementary welfare allowance, a policy pursued by the health boards for many years, and which has now ended.

The authority also continued working with employers and other interest groups in helping them to formulate policies which would avoid discrimination.