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Key Definitions

You may find the following definitions helpful in understanding Irish equality legislation.

Discrimination

When a person is treated less favourably than other person would be treated in a comparable situation, because of their connection to one of the protected grounds (outlined below). Discrimination is prohibited in Irish law, and several kinds of discrimination are covered:

Indirect Discrimination

When a person is treated less favourably, not directly, but as a secondary effect of a practice which places them at a disadvantage in relation to others, as a result of belonging to one of the protected grounds

A practice may not be considered to be indirectly discriminatory if it is justified by a legitimate aim which is achieved by appropriate means

Discrimination by Association

When a person is treated less favourably because of their association with another person belonging to one of the protected grounds

Discrimination by Imputation

When a person is treated less favourably because they are believed to belong to one of the protected grounds

Victimisation

When a person is treated less favourably because they have made a complaint of discrimination or harassment

Protected Grounds

Age

You are entitled to be treated equally whatever your age

Civil Status

You are entitled to be treated equally whether you are single, married, in a civil partnership, separated, divorced, widowed, etc.

Disability

You are entitled to be treated equally whether or not you have a disability

The definition of "disability" in Irish law is very broad and can cover physical disability, sensory impairments, mental health conditions and long-term health problems. A condition may be a disability if it substantially impairs your ability to participate in everyday activities and is not easily corrected (e.g. by wearing glasses)

Family Status

You are entitled to be treated equally if you are pregnant, a parent, a guardian or a primary carer

Gender

You are entitled to be treated equally if you are a woman, a man, a transgender person or an intersex person

Housing Assistance

You are entitled to be treated equally if you are in receipt of rent supplement, housing assistance, or any Social Welfare payment.

This ground relates to the provision of accommodation only.

Membership of the Traveller Community

You are entitled to be treated equally if you are a member of the Traveller Community

Race

You are entitled to be treated equally no matter what race, nationality or ethnic background you belong to, or what colour your skin is

Religion

You are entitled to be treated equally no matter what your religious beliefs are, or if you have no religious beliefs

Sexual Orientation

You are entitled to be treated equally if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual

Harassment

Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the protected grounds that has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person. Sexual harassment is any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

In both cases the unwanted conduct may include acts, requests, spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or other material. The emphasis is on the effect of the unwanted conduct on the recipient, not on the intention of the perpetrator.

Positive Action

The Equality Acts allow for preferential treatment or the taking of positive measures which are bona fide intended to

  • promote equality of opportunity
  • cater for the special needs of persons who require extra facilities, arrangements, services or assistance

Reasonable Accommodation / Appropriate Measures

Any service provider including educational institutions must do all that they reasonably can to accommodate the needs of a person with a disability. This involves providing extra support or facilities in circumstances where without these, it would be impossible or unduly difficult for the person with a disability to avail of the service provided.

Similarly, an employer is obliged to take appropriate measures to enable a person who has a disability to participate equally in the workplace, such as

  • adaptation of premises or equipment
  • change in working hours
  • redistribution of tasks
  • provision of training resources

An employer is not obliged to provide anything that the person might ordinarily provide for themselves, nor is an employer obliged to recruit or promote a person who is not fully capable of undertaking the duties attached to the position.

Reasonable accommodation / appropriate measures are not required if they would impose a "disproportionate burden" or cost more than a "nominal cost", both of which depend on circumstances such as the size and resources of the body involved.