Recently, a hotel has been ordered to pay a €10,000 discrimination award to a female employee from a Traveller background after a senior hotel manager referred to her as “an itinerant”.

Background:

The complainant started working at the hotel when she was 17 in 2016 and was paid €9.95 per hour. In the incident at the centre of the discrimination claim, the young woman described how she was talking to photographers at a wedding on August 9th, 2019, at the hotel when one asked where she was from. She said that when she was answering, the deputy GM allegedly stated “you’re only an itinerant. “The complainant resigned from her post in August 2019. 

Findings:

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudicator Catherine Byrne stated she could conceive of no motive for referring to the woman (21) in public as an itinerant “other than to humiliate and embarrass her”. Ms Byrne stated, “the deputy general manager’s public labelling of the complainant as an itinerant is grossly offensive”. Ms Byrne also found the deputy general manager’s explanation of his conduct “to be ridiculous, not credible and disrespectful to this investigation”. Ms Byrne said she was satisfied that the complainant, who worked as a bartender at the hotel, was subjected to harassment by the deputy general manager and the harassment constitutes discrimination on the ground that the complainant’s family origin is in the Traveller community.

In her findings, Ms Byrne stated that she found the complainant to be a direct and straightforward witness, telling her story without embellishment.

Ms Byrne also found the hotel failed to deal properly with an earlier complaint in 2018, which could have prevented the continuation of the deputy general manager’s disrespectful treatment towards the complainant.

The WRC adjudicator also ordered the hotel to provide professional training to managers regarding the promotion of dignity and respect in the workplace.

How to prevent this from reoccurring?

In addition to the training as outlined above, the key takeaway for employers to the above case is to deal with issues involving employees as they occur rather than brushing them under the carpet. Further investigation of the above case highlighted incidents and comments made before the “itinerant” incident as outlined that were never dealt with correctly. By failing to address the issues as they occurred, it enabled the perpetrator to continue using derogatory language towards his fellow employee. By dealing with these comments from the outset, the company could have saved itself a lot of money.