The Equality Tribunal Report for 2009, which has just been published, shows a marked rise in referrals of claims of discriminatory dismissal.
Overall, there was a 12% rise in employment equality claims in 2009 compared with the previous year. Equal status claims decreased by 18%.
In particular, discriminatory dismissals on the grounds of race, pregnancy or disability have increased dramatically over the last number of years. This is primarily a consequence of the changing economic climate and the impact of the recession. Three quarters of the Equality Tribunal's caseload now relate to these types of claims. This is in stark contrast to the position in 2005 when just a quarter of the Tribunal's referrals were in relation to these claims.
Regarding the breakdown of employment equality claims, there are some interesting statistics emerging from the Tribunal namely:
- 33% increase in claims on the grounds of family status
- 21% increase in claims on the grounds of disability
- 15% rise in claims on the gender ground
Notwithstanding the fact that there was a decrease in claims on race grounds last year, this category of discrimination remains the single largest category of claims.
The average award from the Equality Tribunal last year totalled €12,350, with the highest figure of €189,000 being awarded to a senior employee at a transport company after the Tribunal found she had been victimised and bullied.
It is likely that the trend of increased claims for discriminatory dismissal on the grounds of family status, gender and disability will continue as the effects of the recession continue to be seen for some time to come. Similarly, the trend of increased claims on the grounds of race is also likely to continue as it is reflective of the changing dynamic of the Irish labour force market.