The Equality Tribunal operates under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 - 2011, the Equal Status Acts 2000 - 2011 and the Pensions Acts 1990-2009. The Tribunal is the accessible and impartial forum to remedy unlawful discrimination. It is an independent statutory office contributing to the achievement of equality by investigating or mediating complaints of unlawful discrimination. It operates in accordance with the principles of natural justice and its core values are impartiality, professionalism, accessibility and timeliness. The principal role of the Tribunal is the Investigation and Mediation of complaints of discrimination on the grounds of gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age disability, race and membership of the Traveller community in relation to employment and in relation to access to goods and services, disposal of property and certain aspects of education.
2. What does the Tribunal do?
The Tribunal can process complaints of discrimination by either Investigation or Mediation.
3. What is Investigation?
An Investigation is a quasi-judicial process carried out by an Equality Officer. The Tribunal initially requests detailed written submissions from both parties. The case is then assigned to an Equality Officer who will arrange a joint hearing(s) of the case, at which s/he will give each party an opportunity
1. To present their case
2. To call witnesses
3. To respond to points raised by the other party
4. To answer questions from the Equality Officer
After completing the Investigation, the Equality Officer issues a written Decision setting out the reasons for the Decision. Equality Officers have extensive powers to enter premises and to obtain information to enable them to conduct an Investigation. Decisions are legally binding and are published. The alternative method is Mediation.
For further information on Employment and Equal Status Investigations, please see the Tribunal’s relevant Guide to Procedures.
4. What is Mediation?
Mediation is an internationally recognised process whereby a neutral and impartial person facilitates the parties in a dispute to explore their area(s) of dispute and, where possible, to assist them in reaching a mutually acceptable agreement/settlement. The Mediator empowers the parties to negotiate their own agreement on a clear and informed basis, should each party wish to do so. The process is voluntary and either party may terminate it at any stage.
5. Mediation at the Equality Tribunal
The objective of the Tribunal’s Mediation Service is to provide an alternative dispute resolution process to that of Investigation in respect of claims for equal pay in employment and complaints of discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation under the Employment Equality Acts, 1998 - 2011, the Equal Status Acts, 2000 - 2011, and the Pensions Acts 1990-2009.
6. What are the Benefits of Mediation?
The Tribunal’s Mediation Service offers the parties in a discrimination case the opportunity, if they wish, to reach an agreed settlement. The process respects the confidentiality of the parties, is completely voluntary (either party may withdraw at any stage) and generally much faster than an Investigation before an Equality Officer.
Mediation is an informal process in which the Mediator, who is a neutral and impartial third party with no power to impose a resolution, helps the parties in dispute to try to reach a mutually acceptable settlement. In Investigation there is usually a winner and a loser, whereas at Mediation, both parties could be considered ‘winners’ if agreement is reached.
Unlike an Investigation, the process does not involve written submissions. Mediation is private and agreements, which are legally enforceable through the courts, are not published. In the event of parties reaching agreement, they can choose to sign the agreement at the mediation session, or take a copy of the draft agreement home. This gives them the option of thinking about it more, or getting advice, in order to ensure they are fully informed before signing.
The singular advantage of Mediation is that it can achieve a “win-win” situation if the parties wish to reach a settlement. Innovative and creative solutions are also possible which often allow the parties to reach a settlement which meets their particular needs.
A detailed description of the structure of a mediation session can be found on the Tribunal’s website equalitytribunal.ie
7. What happens if Mediation does not Succeed ?
In the event that agreement is not reached at Mediation the complainant may seek to have the Investigation resumed. In such cases, the Mediator is required under equality legislation to issue a formal “Non-Resolution” notice to both parties. If the complainant still wishes to pursue their complaint they must respond to the notice in writing within 28 days or 42 days (for complaints under the Employment Equality Act) seeking a resumption of the Investigation of the complaint. Where such an application is not made within the specified time limit, the Tribunal has no further jurisdiction in the matter and must close the case file.
If the case returns to Investigation, both sides are precluded from using information disclosed at Mediation without consent. In addition the Mediator will not pass on any information obtained at Mediation to an investigating Equality Officer. It is also important to note that a Mediator will never be asked subsequently to investigate a complaint that s/he has mediated.
Where the complainant requests that the case be referred back to Investigation, the Tribunal will endeavour to ensure that the Investigation is not delayed by the fact that the case was referred to Mediation.
Revised March 2011