Golf club successfully fights claim of gender discrimination

Galway Golf Club

Galway Galway Club found itself in the rough after a woman claimed gender discrimination when she was refused entry to a ‘men only’ competition.

The woman, a keen golfer, who was not a member of Galway Golf Club, complained to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) after being told she couldn’t play an open competition at the Salthill venue on Easter Sunday of last year – because Sundays were men-only days.

She said this was contrary to the Equal Status Act but WRC adjudication officer, who investigated the matter, in a ruling issued last week, said that “the complaint is not well founded”.

Galway Golf Club has made a number of changes to its policy arising out of the complaint, however.

The woman said she phoned the golf club on Tuesday, April 11, last year to book into the following Sunday’s open competition on Easter Sunday.

She was told that she couldn’t play because she was a woman and Sundays were ‘men only’.

When she complained that that was contrary to the Equal Status Act, she was then told that it was permissible because Tuesdays were ‘women only’ days.

The woman proceeded with the complaint and was told that, “in future open days will be open to both men and women”, according to WRC.

Once the complaint was lodged, Galway Golf Club amended its website at the beginning of June opening all open competitions to both sexes other than the competitions which were to take place on July 30 and September 9 of 2017.

The club maintained that it had “acted expeditiously” when the complaint was received. The women’s committee met on April 26; and the men’s committee met on May 3, as did the club council. These were the first available opportunities in all cases to meet.

The general manager wrote to the complainant on May 5, confirming that arising from those meetings “all such competitions would be open to both women and men in future”. She was offered complementary green fees and a meal for two by way of recompense. All club members were notified of the change through an internal email system.

The club argued that, “the need to promote the game of golf is met through balancing the competing factors among members including juniors of both sexes who may be limited in the times during which they can play, seniors who may be restricted on the basis, of family, caring and work responsibilities.

“Accordingly, the club has developed constitutional and operational supervisory committees to balance the various competing needs and devolved responsibility to the Ladies and Men’s clubs to organise club competitions. Each group has a say in arriving at an overall agreement that meets the playing needs of all, recognising that all individual needs and demands can’t possibly be met.”

The WRC Adjudication Officer said: “I am satisfied that the golf club had “objectively justified its decision to rub gender specific ‘open competitions’ and accordingly must find against the complainant”.