FLAC successfully represents a 64 year-old woman in important case of discriminatory dismissal.
26 June 2020
Flac successfully represented a 64 year-old cleaner after she was dismissed by her employer on the grounds of age and disability in a case adjudicated by the Workplace Relations Commission under The Employment Equality Act , 1998.
In a decision to be published by the Workplace Relations Commission today, in what is considered an important case by Human Rights Organisation, FLAC, Adjudication Officer, Niamh O Carroll Kelly found in favour of the 64 year old woman who cannot be named. The woman, who is currently resident in Ireland, took a discrimination case against her employer, who also cannot be named, when she was dismissed on the grounds of age and ill health from her job as a part-time cleaner in a residential disability service. The Adjudicator found in the woman’s favour and she was awarded €10,000.
The woman who, as a result of her dismissal, had no income, no social welfare supports and very little English heard about FLAC through word of mouth and she made contact via the FLAC Roma Clinic Service which has a dedicated interpreter.
According to Ms. Sinead Lucey, Managing Solicitor at FLAC, who represented the woman,
‘There is no coherent system for people like this complainant. They often fall between the cracks. Even if they think they have a case they won’t be able to navigate the system to make their way through.’
‘This woman was fleeing a situation of domestic violence in her home country of Moldova. She was exercising her free movement rights when she came to Ireland to live and to work. Ultimately her employer engaged in no process whatsoever around this woman’s employment or dismissal. She had no contract of employment, was given no training and was ultimately dismissed due to her health conditions and her age with immediate effect, although there was no evidence that either her health or her age ever impacted on her ability to work. In addition, she was left extremely vulnerable when she lost her employment and her only income because she did not qualify for social welfare.’ - Sinead Lucey, FLAC Managing Solicitor.
According to FLAC Chief Executive, Eilis Barry, ‘This case highlights the need for legal information and advocacy in this area. Complaints before the Workplace Relations Commission are excluded from the civil legal aid system, irrespective of the capacity of the complainant to represent themselves. As a result, too few employment equality cases ever see the light of day when the complainant cannot afford representation.
FLAC has recently written to the partners in the Programme for Government asking for a root and branch review of the current civil legal aid system to take place as a matter of urgency.
Notes to Editor
- FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an Irish human rights organisation, which exists to promote equal access to justice. As an NGO, FLAC relies on a combination of statutory funding, contributions from the legal professions and donations from individuals and grant-making foundations to support its work.
- FLAC offers basic legal information through its telephone information line (1890 350 250). Free legal advice is available from volunteer lawyers through a countrywide network of advice clinics (these clinics are currently conducted over the phone) – more at www.flac.ie/help/. FLAC provides legal advice directly to members of both the Roma Community and The Irish Traveller Community via specialist legal clinics. FLAC also campaigns on a range of issues including consumer credit, personal debt, and fairness in social welfare law, public interest law and civil legal aid.
- You can read the anonymised decision of the WRC at https://www.workplacerelations.ie
- The complaint was brought under section 6(1) of the Equality Acts 1998 to 2008 (the “Acts”) provides that: “… Discrimination will be taken to have occured where a person is treated less favourably than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation of the discriminatory grounds.“ The acts make unlawful discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race or membership of the traveller community.
- In terms of understanding the context of this case, it is worth referencing The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination blueprint for government action to eliminate race discrimination in Ireland which includes an important change to state legal aid for those making claims before tribunals such as the Workplace Relation Commission. The UN Committee when it issued its recommendations following a formal examination of state officials in December 2019 expressed concern about the “lack of legal aid provided for appeals concerning social welfare, housing and eviction, which has a significant adverse impact on Travellers and other ethnic minority groups to claim their rights”.
- You can read the FLAC’s Submission to the CERD Committee at; https://www.flac.ie/publications/flac-submission-to-icerd-1/
- The Committee’s Concluding Observations are available at;https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CERD/Shared%20Documents/IRL/INT_CERD_COC_IRL_40806_E.pdf