Student’s racial discrimination case is dismissed

CLAIMS by an Asian-American student that he was racially discriminated against in being refused accommodation by a landlord in Castletroy have been rejected at the Equality Tribunal.

CLAIMS by an Asian-American student that he was racially discriminated against in being refused accommodation by a landlord in Castletroy have been rejected at the Equality Tribunal.

Pierce Parker, a postgraduate student at the University of Limerick, took the case against Dorothy Kealy in relation to the letting of the house in 2011.

Seeking a place to stay in May of that year, Mr Parker said he seen a note in the window of the house advertising three rooms to let. He told the tribunal he had met Ms Kealy at the property, viewed it and made an agreement with her that he would rent a room and move in the following week after paying the deposit.

Mr Parker said he got a text from Ms Kealy the following day regretting that the room was no longer available as they were all taken by women already staying in the house.

Mr Parker complained that, from past experience, he believed he was being discriminated against on race grounds.

He had taken the issue up with the president of the Postgraduate Student Association and requested that they send another student to enquire about a room. He gave evidence to the tribunal that this student was told a room was available, confirming his suspicions of discrimination.

Ms Kealy’s recollection was that when she had met Mr Parker, she told him she would have to check with her existing three tenants whether they would like to bring any friends in before she could agree to let the room to him. After the women had told Ms Kealy they had people who wished to move in, she had texted Mr Parker as agreed to confirm the room was not available.

She told the tribunal that she had subsequently agreed to meet another person who wished to view the house but this individual had failed to turn up. Some days later she had received a call from the postgraduate students association telling her she was facing allegations of racial discrimination.

This had caused upset to Ms Kealy, whose case it was that she had let the property to students of different nationalities from all over the world.

In making her determination, equality officer Marian Duffy said the Equal Status Acts required complainants to establish a prima facie case in the first instance. Having considered written and oral evidence, Ms Duffy said no such case had been proven.

“On balance, I am not satisfied that there was a concluded agreement between them in relation to the complainant becoming a tenant in the house; it was subject to clarification with the tenants already there,” she stated, adding she was satisfied Ms Kealy had previously had tenants of different nationalities stay in the house.

“While it may not be good practice and somewhat misleading to people looking for accommodation to leave a sign for vacancies in the window and to show prospective tenants the house before checking with the tenants in situ about the availability of the rooms, but it is not discriminatory treatment. There is no evidence that the respondent let the room to a person of a different nationality after the complainant viewed it,” Ms Duffy stated, finding against Pierce Parker.

It is the second case Mr Parker has taken to the tribunal for alleged racial discrimination in the last two years.

A previous case in 2011 about his treatment at the hand of security officers working at the University of Limerick was also dismissed at the tribunal.

But that decision was overturned on appeal at Limerick Circuit Court on March 15, 2012, when the security form was ordered to pay €6349 in damages to Mr Parker for racial harassment.

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