Man claims he was refused gym discount as it wasn't 'given to lazy people sitting on the dole'

WRC adjudicator accepted the words were said, but the refusal did not amount to discrimination
Man claims he was refused gym discount as it wasn't 'given to lazy people sitting on the dole'

Gordon Deegan

A man who was refused a gym membership discount after being allegedly told that the gym doesn’t give them to people “who are lazy and sitting on the dole” has lost his discrimination case.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Adjudicator Enda Murphy accepted that the words were said to Mark Dennis by a male receptionist employed by Newbridge Gym Ltd on January 30th 2020.

Mr Dennis was bringing the discrimination case against the then newly opened gym on the grounds of disability as he has been medically diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder called fibromyalgia.

'Totally inappropriate'

In his ruling, Mr Murphy stated that Mr Dennis’s treatment by the male receptionist “was totally inappropriate and reprehensible”.

However, Mr Murphy stated that it does not amount to discriminatory treatment on one of the discriminatory grounds within the meaning of the Equal Status Acts. In the circumstances, he said, Mr Dennis has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on the grounds of disability contrary to the Equal Status Acts.

Mr Murphy found Mr Dennis’s account of the interactions and discussions with the receptionist on the date “to be very credible and compelling. He said it was necessary for Mr Dennis’s case to establish a nexus between the specific treatment to which he was subjected by the receptionist and his disability.

Reduction request

The Adjudicator, however, found that Mr Dennis’s request for a reduction in the membership fee was not connected to this disability, but rather were directly attributable to the fact that he was the recipient of a Social Welfare benefit.

In his evidence at the WRC, Mr Dennis stated that in response to the comments made by the receptionist, he was very much taken aback by the response and replied that he didn’t have a choice about being able to work on account of his disability.

Mr Dennis claimed that the alleged discrimination in the case does not relate to the actual refusal to grant him the discounted rate of membership, but rather relates to the fact that he was called “lazy” and accused of “sitting on the dole” arising from his disability.

At hearing, the gym refuted the allegation that a member of its staff informed Mr Dennis “we don’t give discounts to people who are lazy and sitting on the dole” or any words to that effect.

In his findings, Mr Murphy stated that the gym company confirmed that the receptionist is no longer employed by the company and he did not attend the hearing to adduce evidence in relation to his interaction with Mr Dennis.

Mr Murphy stated that he was therefore satisfied that the gym company’s evidence in relation to the discussions that took place between Mr Dennis and the receptionist amounts to mere hearsay.

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