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The case was brought by the Free Legal Advice Centre on behalf of the young Travellers.

Supermarket chain Iceland to pay €12,000 to Travellers over discrimination claim at Irish store

The group were told to leave the supermarket shortly after entering.

A SUPERMARKET HAS been ordered to pay a combined €12,000 to a group of Travellers following claims they were “humiliated” when they were escorted out of the store by security. 

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) found staff working at Iceland caused “emotional upset and public embarrassment” to the group – of whom three were under 18 at the time – during their visit to the supermarket in November 2020.

The group took four separate cases alleging discrimination following this, saying they had been singled out upon entering Iceland as they believed they were “readily identified” as belonging to the Traveller community due to their accents and clothing.

They said that within moments of entering the supermarket, a security guard and assistant manager confronted them and told them to leave and “in full view of other customers” they were followed out of the supermarket by the Iceland staff.

The case was brought via the Free Legal Advice Centre (FLAC) which noted CCTV evidence it obtained was found to corroborate the difference in treatment alleged by the complainants. 

In its decision, the WRC said the CCTV footage that the Travellers were “escorted out of the shop while other young people were not”. 

In its response at the WRC, Iceland said they are open for business for all customers and do not discriminate against any group, pointing to how the McDonnells and their friends had shopped at the store previously.

The company added that its company staff book details policies for staff to know their legal obligations and ensure that customers are not discriminated against on any ground.

It added that as its security guard and manager are non-Irish nationals they would not be able to distinguish a Traveller person’s accent to that of another customer in the shop.

But WRC adjudication officer Brian Dalton found in favour of the complainants under the Equal Status Act, ruling Iceland had “engaged in prohibited conduct” by its treatment of the young Travellers, pointing to the CCTV evidence as showing there was “different treatment” compared to other customers in the store.

“I have had regard to all the circumstances of this case, the emotional upset and public embarrassment experienced by the Complainant while also considering what is a proportionate amount and that it is also is dissuasive,” he wrote in his four separate decisions on the cases brought to the body. 

“I award the Complainant €3,000 in compensation for the effects of the prohibited conduct and determine that this amount is proportionate and a dissuasive award.”

Welcomed the decision

FLAC said it welcomed the decision of the WRC to award its clients €12,000 for the effects of the discrimination they suffered on the visit to Iceland. 

Christopher McCann, solicitor with FLAC, said it was vindication for its clients “after being subjected to a humiliating experience for no reason whatsoever” during their visit to Iceland.

“We commend our clients for their bravery in pursuing their case and successfully challenging the discriminatory treatment they received,” he said.

Eilis Barry, chief executive of FLAC, said it underlines the need for strong resourcing of centres to allow such cases to be taken. 

“While this decision is very welcome, it is doubtful that the discriminatory treatment received by FLAC’s clients could have been challenged without the presence of FLAC’s Traveller Legal Service,” Barry said.

“As with other cases before the WRC in which FLAC has acted for marginalised clients, this case underlines the need for equality cases to be brought within the remit of the State’s scheme of civil legal aid and for a fully resourced national legal service for Travellers.”