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Dublin Bus ordered to pay gay passenger €7,500 after driver alleged to have made homophobic slurs

Bus company denied offensive terms were used by driver


Dublin Bus bus stop. Stock image. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Dublin Bus bus stop. Stock image. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Dublin Bus bus stop. Stock image. Photo: Steve Humphreys

DUBLIN Bus has been ordered to pay a gay passenger €7,500 compensation after a driver was alleged to have subjected the man to anti-gay slurs.

In the case, the gay passenger alleged that the bus driver called him a ‘f**got’ ‘go on you queer’ and ‘schizo’ on different occasions in 2017 and 2018.

Dublin Bus denied that those terms were used and told the hearing that the bus driver has made a formal complaint to gardaí concerning the passenger’s behaviour and is awaiting the outcome of that complaint.

Dublin Bus said the passenger has 75,000 followers on his Instagram account and one of the videos posted online was of the driver finishing his shift at Talbot Street while the passenger stands on the pavement, shouts commentary about the driver to passers-by and intending passengers.

Dublin Bus said the driver felt threatened by the passenger videoing of him and went on sick leave for three months.

Dublin Bus said the driver is an experienced driver with no other complaints against him.

However, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Roger McGrath has found that the terms by the driver, as alleged, were used and that the bus passenger was subjected to harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation in contravention of the Equal Status Act.

Mr McGrath found that the acts of discrimination by the bus driver violated the passenger's dignity “and created a degrading and humiliating environment for him”.

In his findings, Mr McGrath found that “from the evidence adduced, particularly in the terms used by the driver, I am satisfied that the alleged discrimination and harassment was because of the complainant’s sexual orientation”.

Mr McGrath found that “the interactions with the driver took place as described by the complainant”.

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He said: “I therefore find that he was verbally abused and described in what the driver intended to be insulting terms, linked to the complainant’s sexual orientation.”

Mr McGrath added: “I also find that he was refused service on several occasions when the bus driver refused him access to his bus or drove by the complainant, denying him access to the bus.”

Mr McGrath found that “just as bus drivers expect to be treated with respect so must they treat their passengers with respect. In this case this respect was sadly lacking”.

Mr McGrath also found that Dublin Bus is vicariously liable for the driver’s discrimination.

Mr McGrath said that although the employer did attempt to resolve the conflict between the driver and the complainant “it was too little, too late”.

Mr McGrath said that he was making the €7,500 award taking into account the stress suffered by the passenger and the protracted nature of the difficulties encountered.

The passenger alleged that on December 4, 2017, he attempted to board a Dublin Bus service at Connolly Station and was refused entry by the driver who said to him, “I had an issue with you before so don’t let it happen again.”

The passenger alleged that the driver told him that he would contact the gardaí about him and called him a “f**got” when he was disembarking the bus.

The passenger alleged that the distressing and unwanted conduct to which he was subjected had the purpose or effect of violating his dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating and offensive environment for him.

Dublin Bus told the hearing the incidents complained of by the complainant were investigated but it was deemed that no disciplinary action should be taken against the driver.

Dublin Bus denied that the anti-gay slurs were used but did say that relations between the driver and passenger became confrontational.

Dublin Bus alleged that around November-December 2017, the complainant who was a regular passenger on a specific route was repeatedly paying the wrong fare for the journeys he was taking.

Dublin Bus said that the dispute about fares escalated quickly and there were several arguments between the driver and the passenger.

Dublin Bus alleged that prior to Christmas 2017, the passenger began to photograph and film the driver and began to post commentary in relation to him in which he described him as “homophobic” and “a bully”.

Dublin Bus submitted that other incidents occurred outside work hours and the driver found the whole experience unnerving. It not only affected his health but began to affect his father’s health as well.

Dublin Bus did not deny that on at least one occasion the driver did not stop the bus when he saw the passenger at the bus stop while in turn the passenger sometimes waited for another bus rather than get on the driver’s bus.

Dublin Bus’s operations manager said that the driver felt very harassed by the passenger and ended up going out sick for a period due to the stress related to the ongoing problems between himself and the passenger.

The witness said that when the driver returned from sick leave, he requested a different route and this request was granted. Since October 2018 he has been on a different route.

The bus company said it was clear the driver showed poor customer-relations skills and made misjudgments but what had happened was not an example of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Instead, Dublin Bus contended that what occurred was a situation where a driver challenged a passenger about whether he was paying the correct fare “which provoked a grossly exaggerated reaction of outrage”.

Dublin Bus said that once the argument escalated it was a very uneven dispute, with the driver powerless to take any action to prevent the social media commentary made about him by the passenger. The bus driver did not attend the WRC hearing.

A spokeswoman for Dublin Bus said on Thursday that it noted the WRC outcome.

Today, in a statement issued through his solicitors, O’Hanrahan D’Alton Lally Solicitors, the complainant stated: “I was very happy with the outcome and the decision made by the Adjudicator. The circumstances that led to this case had a huge impact on my life.”

He added that he was hugely disappointed “that I was forced to take this course of action”.

He stated that what occurred “had a huge impact on my life and my mental health”.

He stated: “I was treated differently because I am gay".

He added: “I still feel anxious every time I get on a bus that something similar will happen again. I still can’t believe that something like this could happen in Ireland. I was just trying to go about my normal life and I was stopped from doing so. ”

Solicitor with O’Hanrahan D’Alton Lally Solicitors, Mary Golden who represented the complainant stated: “We are delighted with the decision made by the adjudicator and the result for our client. This decision shows the importance of the Equal Status legislation and the role it has in protecting those most in need of protection in our society.”

She added: “We hope that this decision will influence future behaviour and show that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, disability and all the nine protected grounds are unacceptable in modern Ireland and that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

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