European Union and Irish laws outlaw discrimination in employment and in access to goods and services.
Discrimination means being treated less favourably by an employer or a service-provider because of a particular characteristic, such as your gender, race or age.
European Union Equality Laws
The main EU equality laws are:
- The Recast Gender Equality Directive (2006/54/EC), which covers equal treatment of men and women in employment;
- The Gender Goods and Services Equality Directive (2004/113/EC), which deals with equal treatment of men and women in the provision of goods, services and facilities;
- The Racial Equality Directive (2000/43/EC), which outlaws discrimination on the basis of a person’s racial or ethnic origin in the areas of employment, education, social security, health care and access to goods and services; and
- The Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC), which prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of religious belief, age, disability and sexual orientation.
In 2008, the European Commission published a proposal for a Directive dealing with discrimination in accessing goods and services on the grounds of age, sexual orientation, religion or belief and disability. This law has not been passed to date.
You can read more about the EU’s work on gender equality here and on tackling discrimination more generally here. A useful booklet that explains that explains your rights under EU law is available here.
Ireland’s Equality Laws
As a Member State of the EU, Ireland is obliged to bring the provisions of these EU Directives into its national laws.
Ireland’s equality laws outlaw discrimination on nine characteristics: gender, civil status, family status, sexual orientation, disability, religion, age, race, and membership of the Traveller community. All of these grounds are protected from discrimination in employment and in access to good services and facilities.
- The Employment Equality Acts promote equality in employment and protect workers against discrimination and harassment that may occur in the course of their working life – for example, in areas such as access to employment and vocational training, equal pay, terms and conditions of employment, and promotion.
- The Equal Status Acts protect people against discrimination and harassment when they are buying goods or using everyday services, for example booking hotel accommodation, using public transport or accessing public health services.
Have You Experienced Discrimination?
If you think that you have been discriminated against by an employer or by a service provider in an area covered by the Employment Equality or Equal Status Acts, you can usually take your case to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
To pursue a complaint about a licensed premises or registered club, you must take your case to the District Court.
It is important to note that there are time limits within which you must bring your complaint. To make a complaint under the Equal Status Acts, you must first notify the person or organisation you are making the complaint against within two months of the last act of discrimination. In general, complaints under the Employment Equality Acts must be brought within six months.
Further details on how to make your complaint and all the relevant forms are available on the WRC’s website, www.workplacerelations.ie, or you can contact them at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90.
The Workplace Relations Commission may offer you mediation – through which you and the person who has discriminated against you are assisted to agree a solution, which is then legally binding.
If mediation is not used or is not successful, the complaint is referred to an adjudication officer of the Workplace Relations Commission who will conduct an inquiry and issue a legally-binding decision.
If your complaint is upheld by the adjudication officer, the remedies available may include: compensation, an order for equal pay or equal treatment, and / or an order that somebody take a specified action. All decisions of an adjudication officer can be appealed – to the Labour Court for employment and pensions cases and to the Circuit Court for equal status cases – within 42 days of the issue of the decision.