Employment Equality Act, 1998

Enforcing Your Rights

The Employment Equality Act, 1998 outlaws discriminatory practices in relation to and within employment. The Act prohibits direct and indirect discrimination and victimisation in employment on nine grounds. These are:

  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Family status
  • Sexual orientation
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Race
  • Membership of the Traveller Community

All aspects of employment are covered including equal pay, access to employment, vocational training, conditions of employment, work experience, promotion and dismissal.

Under this Act discrimination is defined as less favourable treatment. A person is said to be discriminated against if she/he is treated less favourably than another is, has been, or would be treated on any of the nine grounds listed above. To establish direct discrimination, a direct comparison must be made, for example, in the case of:

  • Gender discrimination – the comparison must be between a man and a woman;
  • Discrimination based on sexual orientation – the comparison must be between a person of a particular sexual orientation, and one who has a different sexual orientation; and
  • Disability discrimination – the comparison must be between a person who has a disability and one who has no disability, or between persons with different disabilities.

Discrimination

Indirect discrimination occurs when practices or policies which do not appear to discriminate against one group more than another actually have a discriminatory impact. It can also occur where a requirement, which may appear non-discriminatory, adversely affects a particular group or class of persons.

Equal Pay

The objective of the Act is to ensure equal remuneration between persons or a group of persons for “like work”. Like work is defined as the same, similar or work of equal value. Employees must be employed by the same employer, or an associated employer. Equal pay claims can be taken on any of the nine distinct grounds of discrimination.

Harassment

This Act defines sexual harassment as unwanted physical intimacy, requests for sexual favours, spoken works and gestures and the display or circular of written words or pictures in the workplace. Unwelcome requests or conduct that could reasonably be regarded as sexually or otherwise on the gender ground, offensive, humiliating or intimidating, shall constitute sexual harassment.

An employer, an employment agency, or a vocational training body will be liable for harassment by their employees, clients, customers or other business contacts, if they do not take reasonable steps to prevent such harassment.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Employment Equality Act

1. Who is protected by this Act?     

All employees including teachers. 

2. What benefits are offered by this Act?    

Equal treatment in employment in relation to

  • Access to employment
  • Pay
  • Conditions of employment
  • Experience and responsibilities
  • Access to further training and development
  • Access to promotion. 

3. How can these rights, if contravened, be enforced?  

Through a recommendation from the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations.

4. What entitlements should teachers in a school enjoy?

  • Equal access to employment and promotion
  • Equal inclusion in the decision making processes
  • Equal access to opportunities for professional development
  • Right to work in an environment free from harassment or bullying on any of the nine grounds listed above.

5. If I believe I am subject to discrimination what steps should I take at school level? 

Attempt to eliminate discriminatory practices at school level, in the first instance by negotiation, using

  • The School’s Grievance Procedure
  • The ASTI-JMB or ASTI-TUI-ACCS or ASTI-TUI-IVEA Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment or Code of Practice on Bullying, as appropriate.

6. If efforts to eliminate discriminatory practices at school level fail, what options are open to a teacher?     

The teacher can refer a complaint to the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations with assistance of ASTI and seek mediation or investigation.

7. What outcomes are possible from a referral of a complaint? 

Mediation route:     

A recommendation is binding on both parties. Of its nature, it is likely to result in an outcome which reflects the interests of both parties - employee and employer.

Investigation route:      

This is a more formal inquiry which will hear the complaint of the employee and the defence of the employer, and which will result in a decision upholding or rejecting the employee's complaint and recommending a remedy. 

The remedy might be

  • a financial award

or

  • concession of the claim of the employee 

or 

  • both of the above.

8. Does the Act offer protection against sexual harassment?  

The Act prohibits any discriminatory treatment by employer, colleague or student against a teacher on any of the nine grounds. This includes sexual harassment as defined by the Act.

9. Does the Act offer protection against victimisation?   

An employee who believes he or she has been victimised by virtue of seeking to obtain equal treatment has a right to refer such a claim for an investigation and, if necessary, for a remedy.

10. What should a member who believes she/he has been sexually harassed do? 

He/she should obtain a copy of the relevant Code on Sexual Harassment, seek the advice of the ASTI if necessary, and use the provisions of the code.  

If the member believes that the school has failed to respond adequately to the complaint, the complaint can be referred to the Office of the Director of Equality Investigations with the assistance of the ASTI.

11. What service does the ASTI offer in the processing a complaint? 

The ASTI offers advice regarding processing of the complaint and the drawing up of a written submission. The ASTI may make the case on behalf of the member.

12. Do time limits apply to the referral of a complaint?   

Yes, there is a six month time limit.  Complaints will be time-barred if not referred within six months, unless a claim on exceptional grounds is accepted.

External link to Employment Equality Act, 1998: http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/1998/en/act/pub/0021/index.html