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High Court sets aside Labour Court finding
Four Courts

15 Dec 2023 / courts Print

High Court sets aside Labour Court finding

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) has welcomed a recent High Court judgment that set aside a Labour Court determination in a racial-discrimination case.

The case was taken by Peter Onyemekeihia, an Irish citizen originally from Nigeria, who was subjected to racial abuse over six years working as a prison officer in Mountjoy Prison.

He took a complaint under the Employment Equality Acts to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), and subsequently to the Labour Court.

Onyemekeihia argued that no adequate steps had been taken by his employer, the Irish Prison Service (IPS), to address the ongoing abuse over a long period of time.

In an appeal on a point of law to the High Court, IHREC successfully argued that the Labour Court had not provided sufficient reasons for reaching its conclusion.

‘Difficult to reconcile’

The Labour Court determination had referred to section 14A of the legislation, under which it is a defence by the employer to prove that it took ”reasonably practicable” steps to prevent discrimination.

The Labour Court, however, also directed the IPS to conduct a review of its anti-racism policies and strategies.

In her ruling, Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan said that it was “difficult to reconcile” these two aspects of the determination.

“This is all the more so in circumstances where the Labour Court did not, in its decision, explain why it believes that these apparent contradictions are in fact harmonious,” she stated.

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