A SPANISH waitress who was forced to wear face paint for Halloween has been awarded €8,500 for racial discrimination.
Maria Carmen Poveda Valera, who worked in the Swing Room coffee shop in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, for 15 months, was also awarded equal pay with her Irish colleagues after she had discovered that she was being paid over €1.50 an hour less than the Irish waitresses.
Ms Valera told the Equality Tribunal that she was an experienced waitress, having worked in a bar in Spain and a hotel in Ireland. She said she was hired by the owner of the Swing Room in April 2009.
Ms Valera said that at Halloween all staff were instructed to put on face paint for the day. She explained that she did not celebrate Halloween but the owner insisted it was obligatory to wear face paint.
She put on make-up with some glitter but the owner was not happy and said there "would be consequences for her if she did not paint her face", Ms Valera told the tribunal.
In June 2010 the owner said she was going to America and that her brother was going to run the cafe. Along with other staff, Ms Valera's wages were to be cut -- in her case, from €8.80 per hour to €8.65.
It was then that she discovered the other Irish waitresses were on €10.44 and €9.78 per hour, even though she did the same work.
All staff were eventually let go when the cafe closed, but it opened up a week later with new staff.
The Irish waitresses supported Ms Valera's claim at the tribunal.
Equality officer Marian Duffy said: "The complainant (Ms Valera) was reprimanded and singled out for different treatment than the other members of staff, who were all Irish."
Ms Duffy noted that the cafe did not attend the hearing. She felt that an award of €8,500 was "appropriate for the discriminatory treatment".
On the difference in pay, Ms Duffy said: "There were no grounds other than race for the pay disparity."