A hotel has been ordered to pay €5,000 in compensation for discriminating against a bride-to-be from the Traveller community, who had sought to have her wedding reception at the venue.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) heard that the woman had emailed the hotel on July 20, 2019 to enquire about organising the event, indicating that she was flexible about dates.
The venue’s wedding coordinator replied a short time later, inviting the bride-to-be to attend a wedding showcase at the hotel the following day. The woman agreed to attend, and asked about possible dates in November.
In her reply, the wedding coordinator did not provide any information about available dates, and instead asked how many guests were likely to be in attendance, to which the woman responded that between 100 and 120 people would be expected.
In further email correspondence the next day, the coordinator asked the complainant for her surname, which she provided along with that of her fiancé.
Neither the hotel nor the complainant were identified in the WRC decision, but she stated in her complaint that she had a surname “common among Travellers” and resided in a town with a large Traveller population.
When she attended the wedding showcase with her family, the woman said hotel staff were “looking in her direction a lot” and she found it difficult to speak with the coordinator, who was busy with other couples.
After waiting for “a considerable period of time”, she eventually got to meet with the coordinator, who she said was “aloof”, and reiterated that she was flexible about dates for her wedding.
Two days later, the complainant emailed the wedding coordinator to inform her that she had loved the hotel and again sought information regarding available dates. No response was received.
She resent the email twice during the subsequent week, but again received no response. It was only when the hotel received her complaint under the Equal Status Act that the coordinator eventually corresponded with her in October 2019.
The hotel apologised for the delay, explaining that there had been a misunderstanding and they had been expecting to hear from the bride-to-be following their initial meeting.
In her complaint, the woman said this communication was “inadequate and illogical”, as this was not the arrangement agreed in July, and it did not make sense because only the coordinator had knowledge of available dates.
She contended that hotel staff had become aware that she was a member of the Traveller community during the wedding showcase, and this was the “decisive factor” in refusing to provide her with available dates.
The hotel denied discriminating against the complainant, and said it hosts weddings for members of the Traveller community and currently employs one such member. They said it had not been possible to provide a date “there and then”, as there was more to a wedding than simply booking a function room.
The wedding coordinator explained that she had left work on compassionate leave immediately following the showcase due to personal difficulties, and had not checked emails until her return in October.
In her decision, adjudication officer Marie Flynn said the coordinator’s absence did not explain why she had not replied to emails in July and August seeking available dates for a wedding.
Ms Flynn said she was satisfied that, on the balance of probabilities, the complainant had been denied the opportunity to have her wedding at the hotel on the basis of her membership of the Traveller community.
She said the woman had been discriminated against, and awarded compensation of €5,000 for the effects that this had.