Equality Before The Law

Author:Mr John Doyle
Profession:Dillon Eustace


Employment Equality legislation in Ireland is to be found in the Employment Equality Act 1998 as amended by the Equality Act 2004. This legislation is extremely detailed but in effect makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against a person on the basis of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race, and membership of the traveller community. These are referred to as the "discriminatory grounds".

The legislation applies to existing employees in relation to terms and conditions of employment and such issues as access to training and promotion. However, perhaps less obviously and just as importantly, it also applies to potential employees and has a significant impact in relation to the entire recruitment process from job descriptions, advertisements and the interview and selection process itself. Unsuccessful job applicants may potentially bring a claim that they were discriminated against because they were not interviewed or were interviewed but were not successful.


Discrimination occurs where one person is treated less favourably than another person based on any of the discriminatory grounds. A person may bring a claim under several of the discriminatory grounds in appropriate circumstances and this is not at all uncommon. In 2004, a quarter of claims referred were on multiple grounds.


A person who believes that they have been discriminated against may bring a claim to the Equality Tribunal. A complaint must be brought within six months of the alleged act of discrimination. Before formally lodging a complaint, the person may request certain information from the company to enable them to consider their options. The company is not obliged to provide the information but if it fails to do so that fact may be taken into account by the Equality Officer in deciding the case.

The Equality Tribunal will offer the parties the possibility of resolving the dispute through mediation and if this option is either refused or is unsuccessful, an Equality Officer will be appointed to investigate the case and issue a decision.

The six month time limit for bringing a claim does not apply to equal pay cases. In equal pay cases the person must name at least one individual with whom they say they are directly comparable and who they believe is being paid more than they are for doing "like work" or work of equal value. For example, a woman who brings an equal pay claim would...

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