The changes proposed in the Equality Bill are necessary and wholly compatible with the race directive. Section 55 of the Equality Bill 2004 adds a number of new provisions to section 27 of the Equal Status Act 2000, including a new provision at section 27(3) of the Act to provide that the maximum amount specified applies, notwithstanding that conduct, the subject of the investigation, constituted discrimination on more than one of the discriminatory grounds.
At present, if a complainant takes a single case alleging discrimination on more than one ground, for example, on gender and age, the maximum award in respect of the entire complaint would be €6,350. However, if the complainant was to take two cases, one alleging discrimination on the gender ground and another alleging discrimination on the age ground, in respect of the one incident, it would appear that two awards could be made, each up to the maximum of €6,350.
I regard it as unsatisfactory that the amount of redress should depend on the number of complaint forms lodged. This section, therefore, provides that where the conduct of a service provider amounts to discrimination on more than one ground of discrimination, on one occasion, the complaint in respect of all grounds should be referred to as a single case and the total amount of redress which may be awarded should be the maximum set out in the Act.
However, if a complainant is victimised by the respondent for taking action under the Act, I consider that an aggravating circumstance, and I would regard it as a separate incident of aggravation requiring a separate award. It has long been the practice of the Equality Tribunal to treat multiple grounds cases, other than those involving victimisation, as single cases when awarding redress and section 55 of the Equality Bill reinforces that. The amendment is also required to keep in line with a similar amendment under the Employment Equality Act 1998.