Customer Loses Discrimination Case Against Store After Being Refused Entry Without Mask

A customer of a convenience store in Dublin’s north inner city has lost a claim that he was discriminated against after he was refused entry to the shop last year for not wearing a mask.

The Workplace Relations Commission ruled that the Costcutter store on the North Strand in Dublin had not discriminated against Anthony Lyttle after it required him to wear a face covering before allowing him to enter the premises on January 5, 2021.

Mr Lyttle claimed he had been discriminated against on grounds of disability under the Equal Status Act as he suffered from claustrophobia which was triggered by wearing a mask.

He told the WRC that covering his face caused him anxiety.

Mr Lyttle also accused the Costcutter store of failing to provide him with reasonable accommodation for his disability.

He told the WRC that he was asked by a staff member to put on a mask when he entered the shop to purchase milk, despite explaining that he was “exempt”.

Mr Lyttle said he asked to wait outside to speak to the manager rather than bring his disability to the attention of other customers.

He claimed the manager informed him that he would either need to wear a mask or provide evidence of his exemption from wearing a mask before he would be allowed to enter the store.

Mr Lyttle said he was exempt due to his reasonable excuse, which he claimed amounted to a disability, and he was not required to provide evidence of that.

The manager replied that it was the store’s policy that customers must wear a face mask but he could take the matter up with the outlet’s owner.

Mr Lyttle said he returned at a later stage to discuss the issue with the owner which formed the basis for his claim that Costcutter’s had failed to provide him with reasonable accommodation for his disability.

He claimed he was treated less favourably than another person in a comparable situation because of his disability.

However, a representative of the store said Mr Lyttle had come into the shop on January 5, 2021 to ask why his wife had not been served earlier that day when she had refused to wear a mask.

The WRC was told that the Costcutter store had staff with medical conditions who were working every day to keep the shop open and it was the company’s duty to protect everyone.

The store representative said Mr Lyttle was directed to a sign in the shop window which stated that customers were required to wear a face covering.

The WRC heard that Mr Lyttle left the shop stating that he was going to his solicitor.

Outlining its ruling, the WRC said the claimant had admitted that he did not have any medical diagnosis, report or documentation to support the claim that he suffered from claustrophobia.

WRC adjudicator, Orla Jones, noted Mr Lyttle admitted he had not spoken to a doctor about the issue but stated he had suffered an incident about 20 years previously and the claustrophobia had recently been triggered by the requirement to wear a face covering.

The WRC said Mr Lyttle had failed to provide any evidence to support his claim that he was treated less favourably on grounds of a disability or that the store had failed to provide him with reasonable accommodation for such a disability.

Dismissing the case, Ms Jones said the claimant had failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination on grounds of disability