A County Clare hotel has been ordered to pay €3,500 to a Traveller woman when discriminating against her by cancelling her wedding booking.
At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Adjudication Officer, James Kelly found that Treacy’s Oakwood Hotel in Shannon discriminated against Teresa Donovan under the Equal Status Act on the basis that she is a Traveller when cancelling her wedding reception booking at the hotel for February 16, 2019.
Ms Donovan told the WRC hearing that she paid a deposit of €1,000 after being told by the hotel that the date of February 16, 2019, was available.
However, Ms Donovan stated that during a tour of the hotel on June 23, 2018, there was a definite change of tone after she introduced her fiancé, who is also a Traveller, to a hotel representative.
Four days later, Ms Donovan received an email from the hotel's Sales and Marketing/Event Manager stating that she had held a meeting with the hotel’s General Manager, and unfortunately construction works were to be carried out in the ballroom at the start of the new year and the wedding date was no longer available and that the €1,000 booking deposit would be returned.
In response, Ms Donovan said that she emailed the hotel on July 3, 2018 and expressed her disappointment, but said that she was willing to move her date and asked the hotel for other dates that might be available either before or after the construction started.
The hotel replied to say that the “ballroom is fully booked between now and when the construction starts and it’s my understanding that it won’t be completed until late next summer … we are not accepting any bookings”.
In his findings, Mr Kelly stated that he found it hard to accept that the hotel ballroom was totally unavailable for some two hundred days prior to the construction starting.
I find it hard to accept that a hotel business would turn down the offer of hosting a full wedding, when it only hosts 8-10 per year and would not suggest a date into the summer of 2019, when the work would be well and truly completed.
Mr Kelly also said that he found it hard to accept that the Sales and Marketing Manager responsible for events is not aware of the future plans of the hotel and its substantial programme of works in the new year.
He said: “I find that extraordinary that she would be so far out of the loop in the decision making in relation to her area of responsibility.”
Mr Kelly said that the decision to carry out the construction works was made by the owners of the hotel and noted that they did not attend the hearing to give their position.
The hotel’s GM and Sales and Marketing/Events Manager did give evidence at the WRC hearing.
Ms Donovan told the WRC that she was extremely disappointed and embarrassed over the cancelled booking as she had informed family and friends of the date and she had made a number of bookings and paid deposits to secure those bookings.
Ms Donovan listed the substantial financial loss that she incurred having paid the deposit to the hotel and then having made other arrangements, that she could not recover.
She stated that these included deposits paid for wedding car booking arrangements, a substantial deposit paid to a family friend to bake a wedding cake, a deposit paid for decorations for the church, a deposit paid to a family friend to DJ on February 16, 2019, and many people were at a loss as they had booked flights to attend the wedding.
Ms Donovan said that she could provide Mr Kelly with the documentary evidence post hearing to corroborate this claim and Mr Kelly stated that the evidence was not submitted.