A man has been awarded €500 for discrimination after being left upset and embarrassed by the insistence of a porter at Dublin’s historic Gresham Hotel that he put on a face mask when he was medically exempt.
The Workplace Relations Commission has upheld a discrimination claim taken by James Oliver Tattan under the Equal Status Act against the Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street Upper, Dublin 1.
At an adjudication hearing last August, Mr Tattan gave evidence that he had a “serious health condition” which prevented him from wearing a face covering and was exempt from the rules.
He said he was on his way to meet a friend at the Gresham on 16 December 2020 when a porter challenged him in the lobby and asked him where his mask was.
Mr Tattan had a letter confirming his disability, but he said the porter refused to look at it.
He asked: “Are you putting me out of the hotel?”
Other people in the lobby were looking over at them during the exchange and Mr Tattan said he felt embarrassed and didn’t want any more hassle, so he left.
The hotel’s management told the commission it had reviewed CCTV of the incident and had spoken with the porter, who has since returned to his home country.
It agreed that Mr Tattan had been told he must wear a mask before coming in, but said he “did not produce any letter confirming a medical condition preventing him him from wearing a mask”.
“The incident took place at the height of the pandemic,” they added. “The hotel’s procedure is if a guest cannot wear a mask the person is then offered a face shield. If a face shield is refused the guest cannot enter the hotel.”
Mr Tattan said he was never offered a face shield.
The hotel was unable to produce the CCTV footage of the incident as it had been overwritten.
It denied any discrimination and said it was “complying with health and safety protocols for the protection of guests and staff”.
Mr Tattan also said he had no response from the hotel to his statutory claim form. The hotel said it had attempted to deliver its response by courier but had been unable to make delivery as it had no phone number or email address for Mr Tattan.
In her decision, adjudication officer Davnet O’Driscoll wrote that the mask regulations in force at the time of the incident stated that a mask “should not be required where the individual has a ‘reasonable excuse’ which includes a disability”.
“There is a conflict between the submission of the hotel and the complainant’s evidence. I accept the complainant’s evidence that he was not given the option of wearing a face shield and felt he had no option but to leave the hotel,” she wrote.
She upheld the discrimination complaint and awarded Mr Tattan €500 for his “distress” and “the effects of discrimination”.