Employment Equality Act, 1998.

This Act replaces the Anti Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974 and the Employment Equality Act, 1997.

New Discriminatory Grounds: Family status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability, race and membership of the travelling community. The old discriminatory grounds of gender and marital status remain. There are exemptions provided in various circumstances.

Application: With certain very limited exceptions, to all types of employment, access to employment, training and educational facilities.

Increased access to the legislation: Agency workers will now be deemed to be employed under a contract of employment.

Pay Discrimination: Express provisions dealing with indirect discrimination are included for the first time. Provisions in relation to same place requirement have been deleted and the definition of associated employer has been widened.

Indirect Discrimination/Direct Discrimination: Indirect discrimination compares an apparently gender neutral provision between two groups, one having a relevant characteristic and the other not having this relevant characteristic eg male/female -married/unmarried etc. If the provision impacts more heavily on the group having the same characteristic than on those without it, then it may be discriminatory. It must, in matters to which European Law applies, be objectively justified i.e. it must be necessary and appropriate to the objective of the employer. In other cases it must be reasonable.

Positive Action Measures: The act permits measures to promote equal opportunities for men and women in employment or to facilitate integration into the workplace for persons over 50, those with a disability, or members of the travelling community.

Harassment: The act defines sexual harassment for the first time and introduces the concept of 'reasonableness' into the standard applicable to judicial consideration of sexual harassment cases. Behaviour which is offensive in the eyes of the person being harassed may be deemed harassment. Measures to combat harassment on other discriminatory grounds are included.

Vicarious Liability: The act makes employers vicariously liable for the acts of their employees in all cases unless they can show that they have taken reasonable steps to implement a policy against discrimination.

Procedures and Enforcement: Two new authorities have been set up - The Equality Authority and the Director of Equality Investigations. Parties may in certain cases eg harassment, take proceedings directly in the Circuit Court. The alternative is to make a complaint to an equality officer with a subsequent appeal if necessary to the Labour Court. The Equality Authority has power to carry out equality reviews of employers, draw up action plans and serve notices requiring substantive information to be supplied.