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Hotel ordered to pay €5k over cancelling Holy Communion booking for members of Traveller family

A mother and her two children took cases to the Workplace Relations Commission, claiming they’d been discriminated against.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock/PhotoRK

A MOTHER AND her two children who claimed they were discriminated against after a hotel cancelled their booking for a Holy Communion celebration because they are members of the Travelling community have been awarded a total of €5,000 compensation.

In a case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the mother claimed that her booking was cancelled without “any credible alternative explanation” provided by the hotel.

In response, the hotel said that in their decades of operation they’d never let a staff member act in a discriminatory manner and that all were welcome on the premises.

It was the hotel’s case that two bookings had been made for the same day, with the mix-up caused by writing the two bookings in different diaries.

The WRC adjudicator said that he found the case from the hotel “lack[ed] a level of credibility” and ruled in favour of the mother and her children in each instance.

Discriminatory

The mother said she had booked the function room several months before over the phone.

She also went to the hotel in person to pay a €100 deposit on the room. At that time, she finalised details for the food and catering on the day. She told the WRC she booked a clown and DJ for entertainment at the event, as well as a cake and some banners.

Just three days before the function, she said she received a call from a man who identified himself as the manager of the hotel. He told her he was cancelling her booking, telling her it had been double booked. 

She said she was shocked and immediately raised concerns that it would be extremely difficult to make alternative arrangements at such short notice. It was her case she was told she could come instead to the hotel lounge, but couldn’t bring a cake, entertainment and decorations.

The WRC adjudicator said her case was that she “became very upset on the phone and indicated that she had family members travelling from the UK to attend the event and she was being put in a terrible situation”.

When she returned to the hotel, the manager apologised to her and returned her €100.

While she sourced an alternative location, it did not facilitate the number of guests she had originally planned. 

The mother said she and her family had been treated less favourably than a person not in the Travelling community would’ve been treated. She said negative publicity had recently been made in local newspapers about the Travelling community in and around the time of the cancellation. 

She said she was refused a service for the sole reason that she is a member of the Travelling community.

 ‘A terrible mistake’

Giving evidence to the WRC adjudicator, the hotel said staff were “very apologetic about the circumstances of the cancellation”. 

Describing the double booking as a “terrible mistake”, it said that an alternative location within the hotel that was a part of the lounge that was used for parties. 

The manager told the adjudicator: “When the first booking (not the Complainant’s) had been made there was no diary available for bookings, the details for the first booking had been written into the ‘Forward Planner’ section of the 2017 diary. When the Complainant made the booking the 2018 diary was available and the Complainant’s booking was entered on the page for [the set date], this was before the first booking details had been transferred from one diary to another.”

It was the manager’s assertion that this mistake was only discovered a few days prior to the event, when the other group that booked the function arrived to pay the remaining cost of it. 

Decision

In his decision, the WRC adjudicator said that the hotel’s premises were substantial and is often the venue of choice for many people in the locality for parties and functions of all types.

“It appears rather incredible that such a substantial venue can be managed through a diary containing handwritten notes,” the adjudicator said.

“I have carefully considered the evidence presented by both the Complainant and the Respondent and find that the evidence presented by the Respondent lacks a level of credibility.”

The adjudicator added – in each case taken – found in favour of those who’d made the complaint and that they’d been discriminated against on the basis of being a member of the Travelling community.

The mother was awarded €3,000, while her children were awarded €1,000 each. 

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Sean Murray

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