discrimination claim | 

Supermarket chain Iceland ordered to pay €12k to Travellers asked to leave store

The hearing was told the difference in treatment has been corroborated by CCTV footage

Iceland store. Stock image

Gordon DeeganSunday World

Retail chain Iceland has been ordered to pay out a total of €12,000 to four travellers, including two children, after they were discriminated against when asked to leave a store.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator, Brian Dalton has ordered Iceland Stores Ireland Limited to pay each of the four €3,000 taking into account “the emotional upset and public embarrassment experienced”.

In his findings, Mr Dalton said that Laura McDonnell (18), Megan McDonnell (21) and two minors provided credible evidence that they could be identified as being members of the Traveller community and also that difference in treatment occurred on November 20th 2020.

Mr Dalton stated that the difference in treatment has been corroborated by CCTV footage that shows that the four members of the Traveller community were escorted out of the shop while other young people were not.

Mr Dalton stated that the four - represented by Christopher Mc Cann of Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) - have established facts that give rise to a presumption or inference of discrimination under the Equal Status Act.

Mr Dalton found that the four have established a prima facie case that they were discriminated against because they are members of the traveller community and that Iceland Stores Ireland engaged in prohibited conduct.

In her evidence, Megan McDonnell told the WRC “that the effects of this treatment was humiliating”.

Ms McDonnell stated that she had done nothing wrong and the only reason she was asked to leave the shop was because she was a member of the Traveller community.

She recalled that as she entered the shop with her cousins and family, they were all chatting away and she believes that based on her accent and those of her relatives, she was readily identified as belonging to the traveller community.

She also stated that along with having a very distinctive accent she and her companions dressed in a way that is common among traveller communities. They tended to wear their hair long and have a similar fashion style and preference.

Ms McDonnell stated that a CCTV recording would show that other young people like her who entered the store at the same time were not asked to leave.

Ms McDonnell and her mother asked if there was any reason why she and her companions were asked to leave. No reason was given.

In response, Iceland Stores Ireland stated that Travellers are welcome to shop at Iceland and the family in question have shopped many times there before.

The retailer stated that the security guard and manager are non-Irish nationals and would not be able to distinguish a Traveller’s accent to that of another customer in the shop.

Iceland Stores Ireland stated that the Complainants also relied on a distinguishing fashion or dress sense that they stated would indicate that they were travellers.

The retailer stated: “However, on the CCTV evidence that could not be so as the comparator referenced in the video, other customers of a similar age who were in the shop at the same time also dressed in a similar way and had long hair.”

In evidence the Area Manager for Iceland stated that it simply was untrue to state that travellers were not welcome in Iceland; the facts show that the complainants and family had shopped here previously and were welcome to shop at Iceland.

The area manager stated that the company was very conscious of their legal responsibilities and were committed to ensuring their shops both for employees and customers were free from discrimination.

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