Man accused of calling a security guard the ‘N’ word after being asked to fix his face mask loses discrimination case
A man who was denied entry to a supermarket after refusing to cover his mouth and nose with a face mask has had his claim that he was discriminated against on grounds of disability dismissed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
amil Janowicz was asked to adjust his mask by a security officer at Regan’s SuperValu in Firhouse, Dublin on December 1, 2020, at a time when the country was entering Level 3 restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He told an adjudication hearing of the WRC that his face mask was covering his mouth but did not cover his nose. However, the security officer claimed that Mr Janowicz had been wearing the mask under his chin.
He told the security officer that he could not wear the mask properly because he had a medical condition and was in possession of a doctor’s certificate to this effect. When he was asked to produce this document, however, he told the officer that he was not entitled to see it.
The store manager became involved and Mr Janowicz eventually showed him a piece of note paper stating that he “is/was suffering from asthma” and “patient does not tolerate mask”.
He was asked to leave the supermarket on the basis that he had been rude to the security officer. He told the WRC that he had been very stressed following the incident, and claimed that he had been discriminated against on grounds of disability.
In cross examination, it was put to him that he had acted in an aggressive and abusive manner towards the security officer. Mr Janowicz denied this and also denied using the ‘N’ word. He said he always had respect for security personnel.
He said Ridge Trading Ltd, which operates Regan’s SuperValu, had changed its position to make it look like his behaviour had been the issue, rather than his refusal to wear a mask properly.
The respondent company told the WRC that the complainant had been denied entry due to his aggressive and verbally abusive conduct when he was politely asked to comply with his legal obligation.
The security officer told the hearing that Mr Janowicz told him that he “did not have to listen to him” and said “nasty things” to him, including the use of the ‘N’ word. This interaction was heard by a nearby cashier who alerted the manager.
When the manager arrived on the scene, he brought the complainant’s attention to a notice stating that the store reserved the right to refuse admission and asked him to leave on the basis of his interaction with the security officer.
In his decision, WRC adjudication officer John Harraghy noted that there was a requirement for the complainant to demonstrate that he had a disability and provide evidence to support this claim.
He said there was no medical evidence that Mr Janowicz was exempt from the regulations and he had not provided any details other than “a piece of note paper” referring to asthma and stating that “patient does not tolerate mask”.
Mr Harraghy said this did not meet the requirements of the Equal Status legislation, and he was not satisfied that difficulty with wearing a mask constitutes a medical condition. He dismissed Mr Janowicz’s claim and found that he had not been discriminated against on grounds of disability