The Equal Status Acts 2000 -2015 prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the 10 protected grounds of:
- Marital Status
- Family Status
- Sexual Orientation
- Membership of the Traveller Community
- Receipt of housing assistance in the context of the provision of accommodation.
One of the most important provisions in the Equal Status Acts provides that “Anything done by a person in the course of his or her employment shall in any proceedings brought under this Act, be treated for the purposes of the Act as done also by that person’s employer, whether or not it was done with the employer’s knowledge or approval”.
Recent rulings in the Workplace Relations Commission have highlighted the importance for employers to be aware of their obligations in regard to ensuring staff are aware and fully trained in diversity and inclusion matters.
One such recent case highlights the importance of such diversity training.
The complainant bought a tea latte at the branch of the respondent. When handing the cup to be provided to the customer (the complainant) the server drew a smile and eyes rather than inscribing the name on the cup. The eyes were referred to in the evidence as ‘slanty eyes’ and the complainant asserted that this was offensive to her because of the racial connotations and her Thai/Irish heritage. It was found the complainant was a victim of racial harassment and that the employer (respondent) did not take reasonably practicable steps to prevent the act of harassment and is vicariously liable. An award of €12,000.00 was made against the employer.
Vicarious liability arises where the employer is held liable for the wrongs committed by an employee in the course of their employment.
What employers need to be aware of:
- Ensuring existing workplace policies are fit for purpose.
- Providing customer-facing employees with anti-harassment/dignity at work policies which are tailored, comprehensive and up to date.
- Ensuring employees receive effective diversity and inclusion training.
- Being proactive in addressing any discriminatory complaints.
At Boyd HR we can review and ensure your HR policies are fit for purpose. We can provide Dignity at Work training tailored specifically to your particular workplace, for all employees and particularly for employees in customer-facing roles.
Created by: Margaret O’Donnell, Senior HR Advisor, Boyd HR