The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has appeared before the Court of Appeal in proceedings concerning the relationship between claims of discrimination and claims of personal injuries arising from the workplace.
IHREC was granted liberty to appear as amicus curiae (‘friend of the court’) in Culkin v Sligo County Council in January 2016.
In these proceedings the plaintiff, a former Local Authority employee is seeking damages for personal injuries arising from alleged bullying in the workplace.
The Local Authority has sought to have these personal injuries proceeding struck out on the grounds that the plaintiff’s complaint of discrimination as against his former employer has already been investigated by the Equality Tribunal (now subsumed into the Workplace Relations Commission).
The defendant argues that the plaintiff is precluded by section 101(2) of the Employment Equality Act 1998 (as amended) from recovering damages at common law in circumstances where his complaint of discrimination has already been investigated.
The defendant was successful in the High Court, which held that the personal injuries proceedings should be dismissed on the basis that they represented a duplication of the plaintiff’s equality claim against the defendant County Council – a judgement that followed its previous decision in Cunningham v Intel Ireland.
In its submissions as amicus curiae, IHREC has sought to assist the Court of Appeal in interpreting the relevant provisions of the Employment Equality Acts. In particular, IHREC has argued that the relevant provisions must be interpreted in light of EU law, including Directive 2000/78/EC and the principles of equivalence and effectiveness.
Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, stated:
“The Commission, as Ireland’s national equality body, has an important role to play in ensuring that the protections afforded by EU anti-discrimination law are effective.
“These proceedings provide a welcome opportunity for the Court of Appeal to clarify the relationship between complaints of discrimination and other claims that may arise from the workplace.”
The Court of Appeal has reserved judgment.
Click here for IHREC’s submissions in this case.