HomeNewsKillaloe hotel ordered to pay €7,000 in compensation after wheelchair user was...

Killaloe hotel ordered to pay €7,000 in compensation after wheelchair user was offered ‘mayonnaise bucket’ to wash herself

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THE operator of a Killaloe hotel, which provided an industrial-size mayonnaise bucket to a “humiliated” wheelchair user to help wash herself in her hotel room, has been ordered to pay out €7,000 compensation in a discrimination case.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), adjudicator Peter O’Brien has ordered Flexiteam Ltd – which operates Killaloe Hotel and Spa – to pay €7,000 compensation to Dr Jacqueline Elliott after finding that the hotel discriminated against her under the Equal Status Act.

At a hearing, Dr Elliott – who was staying at the hotel to attend a meeting in Limerick the following day – stated that she was subjected to “repetitious humiliation” arising from the hotel’s failure to provide a hotel room where she was unable to access or use the bathroom containing a toilet and shower.

On January 22nd 2023, Dr Elliott booked a room at the hotel for herself and her daughter, who has autism,  through Pigsback.com for February 16, stipulating her need for a wheelchair accessible room.

Pigsback.com confirmed the required facilities in a booking confirmation form, which stated under special requirements “accessible room, one full-time wheelchair user with an autistic child”.

However, when Dr Elliott arrived at the hotel, she was not able to access or use the bathroom or washing facilities in the room and access to other facilities in the hotel were either blocked or required people or things to be moved to give her access.

On the night of their stay, Dr Elliott requested a basin to do her ablutions in the morning after finding that the hotel room toilet was not accessible for her small electric wheelchair.

However, Dr Elliott stated that she was “humiliated” to be passed a bucket at 9pm, and Mr O’Brien stated that the photo provided by Dr Elliott was “a large industrial mayonnaise bucket”.

Dr Elliott stated that she had to use the bucket in the morning having no privacy from her daughter.

She told the hearing that, after being shown their hotel room where the bathroom was not wheelchair accessible, she went to the hotel reception to speak to the general manager where she was told the “new girl” had taken the booking.

The new employee on reception in question told Dr Elliott that she had only just started and she did not know that the hotel had no accessible rooms available.

Dr Elliott stated that the hotel stay was supposed to be a treat for her daughter.

She said that, during an interval to an online Zoom meeting, the general manager, Jibin Thomas, offered to give Dr Elliott her money back and she could stay in a hotel nearer to her next day’s meeting in Limerick.

Dr Elliott stated that, at this point, it was pouring with rain and she was exhausted because she had started at 5am that morning. She told the general manager that she was uncomfortable leaving in case she had an accident as she was worn out.

On March 6, after Dr Elliott had initiated her discrimination claim, Mr Thomas emailed Dr Elliott to state that “once again, please accept my sincere apologies. I accept that it shouldn’t have happened and I put my hands up for the mix up with the rooms.”

After Dr Elliott confirmed her intention to take her discrimination claim, Mr Thomas offered Dr Elliott €500 for the inconvenience caused plus a number of nights’ stay at the group’s Sligo resort.

Mr O’Brien was told that the hotel firm has zero tolerance for discrimination and is extremely apologetic for any distress, upset, or inconvenience caused to Dr Elliott.

In his findings, Mr O’Brien stated that he had no doubt that there was no intention by the hotel firm and the young receptionist to deliberately cause the events that occurred.

However, he stated that Dr Elliott had checked in on the basis of the booking confirmation “and found the facilities totally unsuitable, humiliating, and upsetting”.

Mr O’Brien found that Dr Elliott should have been informed immediately by the hotel when it received the Pigsback.com confirmation that it was incapable of hosting Dr Elliott as it did not have the facilities to do so.

Mr O’Brien stated that the hotel manager, Jibin Thomas, was “genuinely remorseful and apologetic” to Dr Elliott but, by offering the accessible services to Dr Elliott and not providing them, the hotel had discriminated against her.

Mr O’Brien stated that the other factor which must be taken into account in deciding the quantum of the award is the embarrassing and distressful situation Dr Elliott was put in, especially with her autistic child present.

Mr O’Brien stated that while he accepted that the general manager made some efforts to resolve the situation, these did not go far enough and he did not act swiftly enough to resolve the situation by immediately booking another hotel with wheelchair accessible rooms and arranging suitable transport to and from that hotel.

Mr O’Brien found that Dr Elliott’s complaint under the Equal Status Act is well founded as she was subject to less favourable treatment as a result of her disability and that the hotel firm failed to provide the necessary accommodation it committed to on the booking form to Dr Elliott to facilitate her stay at the hotel.

Mr O’Brien noted that Dr Elliott had stated that her main concern was that another disabled person would not have to endure the same situation she encountered.

Mr O’Brien has directed that the Killaloe Hotel and Spa amend its website to show that their rooms are not wheelchair accessible and stated that he would strongly encourage it to review its policy on the non-provision of a room with disabled facilities.

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