Cork man's discrimination claim against restaurant over Covid mask-wearing dismissed

The Cork man also admitted to using a recording device to record all interactions in establishments to further his multiple discrimination claims
Cork man's discrimination claim against restaurant over Covid mask-wearing dismissed

George-Calin Breban declined to produce his medical certificate when telling the Waterford restaurant that he was exempt from wearing a mask, merely telling them "I'm exempt". File picture: Denis Minihane

A Cork man has admitted to using a recording device to record all interactions in establishments to further his multiple discrimination claims concerning the demand to wear Covid-19 masks indoors.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), George-Calin Breban admitted that he has filed “six or seven other claims with the WRC for adjudication” concerning the issue of mandatory wearing of masks indoors during the pandemic.

WRC Adjudicator, Niamh O’Carroll has thrown out Mr Breban’s discrimination claim under the Equal Status Act over the issue of mask-wearing against Waterford restaurant firm, Deli-Wine John Street Limited trading as Burzza.

As part of his unsuccessful discrimination claim against the popular pizza and burger restaurant on Waterford city’s John Street, at hearing Mr Breban admitted that he turned on a recording device prior to entering the restaurant on August 28, 2021.

At hearing, Mr Breban - with a Dunmanway address - submitted a transcript of that recording into evidence. Mr Breban admitted that he has recorded all interactions he has had in other establishments in relation to the issue of mask-wearing.

In the case, Mr Breban stated in evidence that he suffers from a condition which prevents him from wearing a mask. Mr Breban claimed that he was discriminated against on the grounds of disability in relation to the provision of a service.

During the hearing he produced a medical certificate dated November 17, 2020, from a Dr Thomas O’Donnell, Dunmanway Medical Centre, which set out “This is to certify that the above named suffers from severe anxiety on wearing a mask”.

However, Mr Breban, by his own admission, refused to disclose to the restaurant on the day that he had a disability and refused to produce his medical certificate. WRC Adjudicator, Niamh O’Carroll stated that the only information he gave them was that he was exempt.

'I'm exempt'

On August 28, 2021, Mr Breban was in Waterford with three friends and they went to Burzza and sat outside. The three ordered their food and just before the food arrived Mr Breban went inside to wash his hands. He had ordered a burger and was planning to eat it with his hands.

Mr Breban did not know where the restrooms were, so he asked the barman if he knew where they were. The barman replied: "Yeah, do you have a mask?" and Mr Breban told him “I'm exempt”.

Nearly instantly a waitress came from outside and Mr Breban told her that he was exempt. At this stage people were starting to watch what was going on. The waitress asked Mr Breban if he had proof that he was exempt.

Mr Breban did have his medical certificate with him, but he refused to show it to her. Instead, he explained that under Article 9 of GDPR, she cannot process special category data. The waitress explained that it was a policy of the restaurant that people had to wear a mask indoors.

Mr Breban wanted to wash his hands before eating and because there were no facilities outside he had to go indoors to do that and in that regard the restaurant failed to provide reasonable accommodation to him.

Everyone that was eating indoors was allowed to sit for 45 minutes and eat their food without a mask and Mr Breban alleged that to be forced to disclose his medical conditions/certification deprives him of his dignity.

There was no appearance for or on behalf of Burzza at hearing.

WRC ruling

In her findings, Ms O’Carroll stated that at the time, patrons would have had to show their vaccination status before being allowed to eat indoors and Mr Breban refused to disclose his vaccination status to her at hearing.

Ms O’Carroll found that based on the medical evidence adduced at the hearing, she found that Mr Breban is suffering from a disability, however, Burzza could not have discriminated against him on the grounds of that disability because they were not informed of it at the material time.

Ms O’Carroll said that for Mr Breban to state “I am exempt” is not sufficient. Ms O’Carroll stated that she was satisfied that Mr Breban has failed to establish a prima facia case of discrimination on grounds of disability and the complaint fails.

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