Dublin Bus ordered to pay passenger €7,500 over alleged homophobic slurs

ireland
The WRC Adjudication Officer found that Dublin Bus is vicariously liable for the driver’s discrimination.
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Gordon Deegan

Dublin Bus has been ordered to pay a passenger €7,500 compensation after a driver is alleged to have subjected the man to homophobic slurs.

The passenger alleged that the bus driver called him a ‘f**got’ ‘go on you queer’ and ‘schizo’ on different occasions in 2017 and 2018.

Dublin Bus denied that those terms were used. It also told the hearing that the bus driver has made a formal complaint to the Garda concerning the passenger’s behaviour and is awaiting the outcome of that complaint.

The bus company said the passenger has 75,000 followers on his Instagram account and one of the videos posted online was of the driver finishing his shift at Talbot Street while the passenger stands on the pavement, shouting commentary about the driver to passers-by and intending passengers.

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Dublin Bus said the driver felt threatened by the passenger videoing him and went on sick leave for three months. It said the driver is an experienced employee with no other complaints against him.

Ruling

However, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudication Officer, Roger McGrath found the terms by the driver, as alleged, were used and that the bus passenger was subjected to harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation in contravention of the Equal Status Act.

Mr McGrath found that the acts of discrimination by the bus driver violated the passenger's dignity “and created a degrading and humiliating environment for him”.

In his findings, Mr McGrath found that “from the evidence adduced, particularly in the terms used by the driver, I am satisfied that the alleged discrimination and harassment was because of the complainant’s sexual orientation”.

Mr McGrath stated: “I also find that he was refused service on several occasions when the bus driver refused him access to his bus or drove by the complainant denying him access to the bus.”

Dublin Bus liable

He also found that Dublin Bus is vicariously liable for the driver’s discrimination. While the employer did attempt to resolve the conflict between the driver and the complainant he said “it was too little, too late”.

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Dublin Bus told the hearing the passenger’s complaints were investigated but it was deemed that no disciplinary action should be taken against the driver.

It denied that the slurs against the passenger were used, but did say that relations between the driver and passenger became confrontational.

Arguments

Dublin Bus alleged that around November-December 2017, the complainant who was a regular passenger on a specific route was repeatedly paying the wrong fare for the journeys he was taking.

The company said the dispute about fares escalated quickly and there were several arguments between the driver and the passenger. It did not deny that on at least one occasion the driver did not stop the bus when he saw the passenger at the bus stop, while in turn the passenger sometimes waited for another bus rather than get on the driver’s bus.

Dublin Bus’s operations manager said the driver felt very harassed by the passenger and ended up going out sick for a period due to the stress related to the ongoing problems between himself and the passenger. The witness stated that when the driver returned from sick leave, he requested a different route and this request was granted and since October 2018 he has been on a different route.

Dispute

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The bus company stated that it is clear that the driver showed poor customer relations skills and made misjudgements, but what happened is not an example of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Instead, Dublin Bus contended that what occurred was a situation where a driver challenged a passenger about whether he was paying the correct fare “which provoked a grossly exaggerated reaction of outrage”.

Dublin Bus stated that once the argument escalated it was a very uneven dispute, with the driver powerless to take any action to prevent the social media commentary made about him by the passenger. The bus driver did not attend the WRC hearing.

A spokeswoman for Dublin Bus stated on Thursday that it noted the WRC outcome.

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In a statement issued through his solicitors, O’Hanrahan D’Alton Lally Solicitors, the complainant stated: “I was very happy with the outcome and the decision made by the Adjudicator. The circumstances that led to this case had a huge impact on my life.”

He said he was hugely disappointed “that I was forced to take this course of action” and that what occurred “had a huge impact on my life and my mental health”.

“I was treated differently because I am gay," he said.

His solicitor Mary Golden said: “We hope that this decision will influence future behaviour and show that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, disability and all the nine protected grounds are unacceptable in modern Ireland and that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated.”

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