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Racial inequality claims rise 106%

Resource type: News

Irish Times |

Original Source by CARL O’BRIEN and ELAINE EDWARDS NEW FIGURES showing a marked rise in complaints of racial discrimination in the workplace are evidence of increasing awareness of the issue, Minister of State for Integration Conor Lenihan said yesterday. Figures published by the Equality Tribunal show complaints on grounds of racial discrimination increased by 106 per cent last year. Many cases were from eastern European countries. However, Mr Lenihan said the total number of cases 307 was “relatively small” in comparison with the estimated 435,000 immigrants living in the State. “While any discrimination is to be deplored, continuing education of employees on their rights and employers on their responsibilities is extremely important and the increased number of cases being brought to the Equality Tribunal on race grounds does indicate an increase in the awareness of rights,” Mr Lenihan said. However, Equality Tribunal director Melanie Pine said the sudden jump was unusual and there was evidence to show the trend was continuing this year. “I think it’s to do with the increasing diversity of the workplace . . . and there is also an increasing awareness of rights,” she said. The tribunal is an independent quasi-judicial body set up to adjudicate on complaints of discrimination in employment or in the provision of goods and services. Overall, there was a 44 per cent increase in employment equality claims in 2007 and an 11 per cent increase in equal status claims. Some 852 cases were referred to the tribunal last year compared to 628 in 2006. Employment-related claims now account for four fifths of the tribunal’s new business. There was a 59 per cent increase in claims on grounds of disability and a 5 per cent increase on grounds of gender. However, claims relating to age discrimination dropped 14 per cent. Amounts totalling more than EUR460,000 (excluding equal pay and pay arrears etc) were awarded in compensation last year where discrimination was found. The average award was EUR14,400 compared to EUR10,100 in 2006. The highest award was EUR125,000. Awards in relation to equal pay were made in four cases. Two former employees of An Post were awarded more than EUR70,000 each . when the tribunal found a company scheme not available to employees over 60 was discriminatory. A rheumatology nurse was awarded EUR25,000 for discrimination by St James’s Hospital when she was not promoted to a post for which she was the most qualified. In another case, a woman asked to leave a Centra store because she had her guide dog with her was awarded EUR3,000. The tribunal also ordered a store to pay compensation to an employee dismissed because she was unable to communicate fully when her hearing aid was sent for repair.

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