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Woman loses WRC challenge as it's found golf club entitled to run gender-specific 'open' competitions

The club changed its policy after the woman complained, and offered her a free meal by way of apology.

Image: Shutterstock

A WOMAN WHO took a golf club to the Workplace Relations Commission after it refused her entry to a ‘men only’ golf tournament has lost her case.

The woman, described as a “keen golfer”, took her case after being refused entry to an open day event at the club’s course on Sunday 16 April, 2017.

It is claimed the woman was informed that she was unable to take part in the event, as Sundays were ‘men only’ days at the club.

After claiming that this was contrary to the Equal Status Act, the woman says she was informed that the policy was allowed because Tuesdays were designated as ‘women only’ days at the club.

The woman subsequently complained to the WRC and received a reply from the club a number of weeks later, when she was assured that open days would be open to both men and women in future.

She added that the club changed its website in June 2017 to say all open competitions were open to both sexes, aside from competitions which were due to take place in July and September 2017.

Meal for two

In response to the woman’s case, the golf club said it acted “expeditiously” after receiving her complaint, which it says it did not agree with.

It claimed that its ladies committee met on 26 April 2017, and that its men’s committee and the club council met on 3 May, which the club said were the first available opportunities for each of the groups to meet.

The club agreed that the woman was informed that all competitions would subsequently open to both women and men in the future, and added that it offered her complementary green fees and a meal for two by way of compensation.

The club also said it had informed all of its members of the change through an internal email system on four occasions between May and June 2017.

In a legal submission to the commission, the club questioned the woman’s capacity to bring a complaint, saying she had declared herself satisfied with its response to the original allegation in her complaint form.

‘Reasonably necessary’

It added that the woman had suggested that her complaint to the WRC had been brought over the failure of a popular third-party golf website, over which the club said it had “very little control”, to publicise its response to her initial complaint.

It said that visitors to the club could not book facilities through the website, and that the woman’s complaint concerned the operators of the website, not the golf club.

In its decision, an adjudicator for the commission said they were satisfied that the woman had established a potential case of discrimination and said the burden of proof was on the golf club to disprove it.

However, they also ruled that the Equal Status Act did not apply when people were treated differently on the grounds of gender when differences were “reasonably necessary” for a sporting event.

The commission therefore ruled that the club was justified in its decision to run gender specific “open competitions”, and found against the woman.

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