This case concerned a claim by Mr Panuta that Watters Garden World and Watters Garden Sheds discriminated against him on grounds of race in not attending to his work permit or tax status, in the Respondent not providing important work related information in a language understood by him, and by notifying the Gardaí about his immigration status when he filed a complaint with the Equality Tribunal, which the complainant contended constituted victimisation under the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 to 2004.
Mr Panuta (the Complainant), a Moldovan national, submitted that the Respondent failed to apply for a work permit for him with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment although, it promised him it would do so. The Complainant further submitted that he never received any P60 forms for the years 2003 to 2006 and that this failure on the part of the respondent to keep his tax affairs in order, together with the failure to apply for a work permit, constituted discrimination on the grounds of race and hampered him in obtaining legal residency in Ireland.
The Respondent refuted the Complainant’s claims of discrimination and victimisation. In particular, the Respondent claimed that the Complainant approached it for work and advised it of his PPS number. By this, the Respondent assumed that the Complainant’s affairs were in order. The Respondent denies that it was required to make an application on the Complainant’s behalf to obtain a work permit, as it was under the impression that Moldova was an EU accession state and that the Complainant would not need a work permit. Finally, the Respondent maintains that in reporting Mr Panuta’s immigration status to An Garda Síochána, it was merely protecting its own position, and that this action could not be interpreted as victimisation.
In the case, the Equality Officer was critical of the fact that the Respondent was familiar with the work permit process and therefore, it should not have presumed that the Complainant did not need a work permit. On this point the Equality Officer held that the Complainant had established a case of less favourable treatment on the grounds of his Moldovan nationality, and it was held accordingly that the Complainant had been discriminated against on the grounds of race.
In coming to his decision, the Equality Officer referred to the case of Campbell Catering v. Aderonke Rasaq where the Labour Court held that, applying the same procedural standards to non-national workers as would be applied to an Irish national could amount to discrimination based on race. The Equality Officer held that the provision of employment contracts and health and safety information in languages other than English for employees who demonstrate such a need, falls under the principle established in Campbell. He held that the Complainant established a prima facie case of less favourable treatment on the grounds of race in that he had a limited standard of English despite which, he was not provided with important documentation in a language he could understand. The Equality Officer was also of the opinion that not issuing proper tax documents to the complainant, an entitlement of which an Irish worker would have been aware, does bring the Complainant’s situation under the above test formulated in Campbell Catering and constituted less favourable treatment on the grounds of race.
In relation to the claim of victimisation, the Equality Officer held that contacting the Gardaí in response to a notification that a complaint was lodged with the Tribunal constituted adverse treatment. The Equality Officer was of the opinion that the Respondent could have safe guarded its position through making enquires with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment about the need of a work permit for the Complainant. Therefore, the action taken by the Respondents was not proportionate in response to proceedings which had been commenced by the Complainant, and resulted in the Complainant being victimised.
The Equality Officer ordered the Respondent to pay the complainant €10,000 for the effects of discrimination and €30,000 for victimisation.