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Compensation Cork hotel ordered to pay out €22k to Traveller family in seventh discrimination ruling in last month

The Charleville Park Hotel has been ordered to pay a total of €38k compensation to travellers in seven separate rulings over last month

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Charleville Park Hotel & Leisure Club

Charleville Park Hotel & Leisure Club

Charleville Park Hotel & Leisure Club

A Cork hotel has been ordered to pay out €22,000 in compensation for discriminating against a homeless Traveller couple and their two young children when refusing them accommodation.

In the discrimination case, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator, Thomas O’Driscoll has ordered Atlantic Troy Limited trading as the Charleville Park Hotel pay the O’Reilly/O’Neill family a total of €22,000.

Mr O’Driscoll has ordered the hotel firm to pay €8,000 each to Bridget O’Reilly and her partner Philip O'Neill and €3,000 each to their two children.

The WRC award of €22,000 against the Charleville Park Hotel now brings to €38,000 the hotel has been ordered to pay out to travellers since the start of last month in traveller discrimination cases taken under the Equal Status Act.

In three connected rulings last month, the WRC ordered the hotel to pay three Travellers, including a grandmother, a cumulative €16,000 when refusing them a night’s stay at the hotel after insisting they pay by credit card.

Concerning the four new related cases, in September 2018, Bridget O’Reilly and her family were declared homeless by Cork County Council and Ms O’Reilly made an online booking via a debit card for three nights for September 28th, 29th and 30th at the Charleville Park Hotel.

The following day, the family attended the hotel with a Dept of Social Protection Community Welfare Officer (CW) and the CWO had a cheque for the three nights accommodation.

However, the hotel receptionist told the family and the CWO that it required a credit card as security against payment and would not provide accommodation to the family without a credit card.

The family left but returned the following morning to the hotel after their solicitor stated that the rooms were available on bookings.com or the hotel’s own website.

Ms O’Reilly asked the receptionist to speak to her solicitor directly and the solicitor offered to pay with her credit card but the receptionist insisted that it must be in the name of the person seeking the accommodation.

Ms O’Reilly told the hearing of how embarrassed and humiliated she felt when refused accommodation at a public area of reception in the hotel.  

Represented by Sinéad Lucey of Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC), Ms O’Reilly also told of the distress of being homeless on the night in question and the considerable efforts made in finding alternative accommodation.

The family did secure alternative accommodation at a hotel in Mallow and the family received the keys of a council house at the end of January 2021.

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In his findings, Mr O’Driscoll determined that the hotel’s conduct in refusing accommodation “not only breached a socially remedial statute but also fell below the threshold of decency that reasonable people expect of the hospitality sector”.

Mr O’Driscoll said that the prohibited actions of the hotel “was not to deny a booking for a social occasion, which would have been serious enough, but instead to deny emergency accommodation for three nights only, to a family who were both homeless and members of a vulnerable minority at the margins of society”.

Mr O’Driscoll stated that the circumstances of the case “demand that the redress be on the higher end of the scale”.

Mr O’Driscoll has also directed the hotel to revise its requirement on credit card bookings so that the policy does not infringe upon its obligations under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015.

Mr O’Driscoll stated that Ms O’Reilly’s two children were excited when their mother told them that she had booked a hotel for them for three nights and “they subsequently experienced upset and devastation when she had to tell them otherwise”. 

Mr O’Driscoll found that based on the balance of probabilities, membership of the Traveller community was a material fact, which in part, led to the hotel denying Ms O’Reilly and her family accommodation at the hotel.

The hotel strenuously denied that they have discriminated against the Complainants on the grounds that the family are members of the Traveling Community.

The hotel firm owns and operates five hotels, including the Charleville Park Hotel that together operate under the "SO Hotel " logo.

The hotel firm stated that company policy provides that all guests in their hotels are treated equally.

The hotel firm stated that Ms O’Reilly and the three others were refused a booking on two grounds - the family were not in a position to comply with hotel policy on credit cards and the family were not looking for hotel accommodation - they were looking for a home.

The hotel company stated that it is the responsibility of the local authority to provide a family home, not the hotel.

The hotel company stated that it previously accommodated other persons in a similar situation to the O’Reilly/O’Neill family.

The hotel company stated that the experience was “disastrous” both from the point of view of the hotel and the families concerned.

The hotel company stated that the hotel previously provided accommodation to Cork County Council to two traveller families that was supposed to be for one week.

The accommodation was provided as requested but contrary to what was represented, the two families remained in the hotel for 12 months.

The hotel stated that numerous requests were made to the Council to provide housing for these families and all of these requests were ignored.            

The hotel stated that during the period of this accommodation substantial damage was caused to the hotel and it cost €30,000 to have the damage repaired. The hotel stated that the Council has refused to reimburse the hotel in respect of this loss and damage.

A General Manager at the hotel told the WRC that a credit card was important because it provided financial security for the hotel in that it ensured that bills would be paid.

The General Manager stated that neither he, nor the hotel discriminates against the Traveller Community. 

The GM stated that he was aware that members of the Traveller Community were members of the Leisure Club at the hotel.

In his findings Mr O’Driscoll addressed the hotel’s “negative experience” of accommodating two traveller families in the past.

Mr O’Driscoll stated that in putting forward such a position the hotel firm plainly “seeks to portray all Traveller families in the same light and raises a serious presumption of discrimination that it does not satisfactorily rebut”.

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