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Dealz ordered to pay €7,000 after challenging Irish Paralympian over guide dog in store | BreakingNews.ie

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The discount retailer Dealz has been ordered to pay €7,000 compensation to a blind Irish Paralympian who was challenged at one of its outlets last year for bringing her guide dog into the store.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled that Dealz had discriminated against Nadine Lattimore on grounds of disability over the incident which occurred in the Dealz store in the ILAC Centre in Dublin on the morning of June 30th, 2023.

Ms Lattimore, a registered blind person, told the WRC that she was humiliated after she was called out for bringing her guide dog, Pilot, into the shop, which drew attention to the fact of her blindness.

She also outlined her sporting achievements, including competing in track and field events for Ireland in the Paralympics in London in 2012.

Ms Lattimore said she had gone to the Dealz store at around 9.30am to purchase some helium balloons for an event later that day after having dropped her son off at school.

The WRC heard she was very familiar with the shop and knew some of the staff who had always been helpful in the past.

Ms Lattimore said she became aware of voices or a commotion behind her as she was making her way carefully to the cash register to look for assistance.

Although she did not think it was anything to do with her, a security guard approached her and said: “Excuse me. That dog is not allowed in here.”

Ms Lattimore said she felt humiliated, embarrassed and somewhat vulnerable.

She asked to see a manager and a shop assistant who came over to her also went away immediately to find the person in charge.

Ms Lattimore confirmed she had no problem with Dealz staff, apart from the initial confrontation with the security guard.

The WRC heard the manager arrived immediately and confirmed the dog was welcome in the store and the mistake should never have happened.

He explained the issue had arisen from the rotation of security guards.

Apology

Under cross-examination, Ms Lattimore acknowledged an apology had been made, including one from the security guard. However, she expressed concern that the situation had arisen at all.

Ms Lattimore said she should not have been put in a position of having to identify or explain her disability.

She described how difficult standing her ground during the incident was as she had no idea how many people were watching on.

The WRC heard that she told the manager that she could be making a complaint about the incident, and they shook hands before she left the store.

Legal representatives for Dealz expressed regret at the outset of the hearing about the incident, but denied responsibility for any discrimination.

However, they stated that any allegation of discrimination was a source of dismay for the company.

Dealz claimed Ms Lattimore’s claim against the company was misconceived as it sought to distinguish between its staff and security staff contracted to work on the premises.

WRC adjudication officer, Penelope McGrath, noted that Ms Lattimore’s version of events had not been challenged by Dealz, which had put forward no evidence to rebut her claims.

Ms McGrath said she was satisfied that even the most cursory of glances would immediately identify her dog with its reflective harness, vest and rigid handle frame as a working guide dog.

She ruled that Ms Lattimore had established a prima facie case of discrimination contrary to the Equal Status Act and had been made to feel “other”.

“The complainant has not willingly returned to this shop where her disability was broadcast, and her humiliation was complete,” Ms McGrath said.

However, she acknowledged that Dealz management had “swept in to ameliorate the situation” as quickly as they could, which Ms Lattimore had acknowledged.

The WRC said it did not distinguish between staff employed directly by Dealz and agency or contracted staff.

Awarding compensation of €7,000, Ms McGrath also directed that Dealz staff be trained on a repeat basis on the provisions of the Equal Status Act and the associated duties of service providers.

She also directed that signs stating guide dogs and assistance dogs are welcome should be displayed at entrances to their stores.

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