Case Number: DEC-S2016-018. Workplace Relations Commission

CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
Judgment Date01 March 2016
Docket NumberDEC-S2016-018
PartiesNoel Mulryan -V- Road Safety Authority
EQUAL STATUS ACTS DECISION NO. DEC-S2016-018 PARTIES Noel Mulryan AND Road Safety Authority (Represented by Gary Compton, BL Instructed by Philip Lee Solicitors) File reference: ES/2014/0038 Date of issue: 9 March 2016 1. Background to Claim

1.1 This complaint concerns a claim made by Noel Mulryan (hereinafter “the complainant”) that he was discriminated against by the Road Safety Authority (hereinafter “the respondent”) on the religion ground in terms of section 3 (2) (e) of the Equal Status Acts in relation to not being allowed wear a colander on his head for the purposes of the photograph when he was making an application to renew his driver’s license.

1.2 The complainant referred his claim to the Director of the Equality Tribunal on 2 December 2013 under the Equal Status Acts, 2000 – 2013 (hereinafter “the Acts”). In accordance with his powers under Section 75 of the Acts, the Director delegated the complaint to me, Valerie Murtagh, an Adjudication Officer, for investigation, hearing and decision and for the exercise of other relevant functions of the Director under Part VIII of the Acts. On 3 November 2015, my investigation commenced when the complaint was delegated to me. In accordance with Section 25(1) and as part of my investigation, an oral hearing was held on 8 December 2015 and both parties were in attendance.

1.3 This decision is issued by me following the establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission on 1 October 2015, as an Adjudication Officer who was an Equality Officer prior to 1 October 2015, in accordance with section 84 (3) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015.

2. Summary of the Complainant’s case

2.1 The complainant states that on 9 September 2013, he applied to the Motor Tax office for a change of address on his driver’s license. He provided a form, passport sixed photographs and proof of address as required. The complainant also included a letter explaining that he was wearing headwear in his photo due to his religious beliefs. The Complainant states that he received a letter dated 21 October 2013 explaining that after consultation with the respondent that his driving license application “was being refused on two grounds (i) the photo captured should have a clear view of the eyes/eyebrows/forehead area with minimal shadows (ii) while it is acceptable to wear head covering in accordance with religious beliefs, we do not believe that you have demonstrated that the use of head covering is related to a religious belief.” The complainant submits that at this point he felt he was being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs. He had already explained in the letter accompanying his application that he was wearing a colander on his head for religious purposes i.e. as he is a Pastafarian. The complainant did accept that his head covering could be smaller so he re-submitted his application on 23 October 2013 with new passport sized photographs. He also included an accompanying letter with examples of other fellow Pastafarians wearing their religious headwear in official government issued documents. He received a letter dated 21 November from the respondent suggesting that his religious beliefs were a parody and as a result his license application would not be accepted.

2.2 The complainant submits that he was treated less favourably on grounds of his religion. He states that persons of other religious persuasions are allowed to wear religious headwear but he is not. The complainant contends that the only guidelines offered by the respondent in relation to religious headgear are “head coverings, other than for religious reasons are not allowed and hair bands are not acceptable.” The complainant contends that he followed the guidelines correctly and explained that his headwear is for religious reasons. He states that nowhere in the guidelines does it say that the respondent must approve of his religious beliefs. The complainant maintains that not only was he asked to demonstrate that his wearing of religious headwear was for religious reasons but he was then told that his beliefs were not genuine and therefore would not be accepted. The complainant alleges that as a result of the discrimination, he has been without a driving license with his correct address for a substantial amount of time. He states that as a consequence, it has made it impossible to drive for work and to visit family and friends. The complainant states that since the most recent refusal to process his driving license, he has unfortunately lost his old driving license. This loss means that he is currently unable to drive a motor vehicle legally and the respondent has indicated that he is effectively barred from applying for a replacement license without first changing or denying his religious beliefs. The complainant also states that his inability to drive causes major inconvenience to his employer who has in the past requested him to drive to carry equipment from one place to another. He also submits that when he goes abroad, he cannot rent a car and must rely on public transport which can be slow, frustrating and expensive.

2.3 The complainant states that Pastafarianism is a minority religion in Ireland but is known and celebrated around the world. He submits that for someone to become a Pastafarian, they simply declare themselves a Pastafarian. The exact number of Pastafarians worldwide is currently unknown since as with most other religions, there is no central register. The complainant contends that the Pastafarian religion came to mainstream attention in 2005 when Bobby Henderson, a physics graduate of...

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