Discrimination and Equal Opportunities

The Equal opportunities Act

The Equal opportunities Act prohibits discrimination on grounds of gender and places a general obligation on the employer to promote greater equality.
 
The act applies both to employees and to job applicants. Areas where discrimination is prohibited include recruitment, dismissal, promotion, training and supervision. Both direct and indirect discrimination are prohibited. In addition, the act also prohibits harassments and includes an obligation for the employer to investigate any situation where the employer receives knowledge that an employee deems himself/herself to have been subjected to discrimination. If the conclusion of such an investigation is that an employee has been discriminated against, the employer shall take any reasonable action to prevent discrimination from occurring in the future.
 
Contravening the prohibition against discrimination results in a liability to pay damages, both for the offence itself and for economic loss. Furthermore, an agreement is invalid to the extent that its provisions are discriminatory.
 
The regulations concerning the general obligation of employers to promote equality include an obligation to have a gender equality plan and to yearly survey and analyse if there are any unreasonable differences between the salaries of men and women. These rules are not sanctioned by damages. However, the Equal Opportunity Ombudsman has the authority to ensure compliance in this area and may order an employer to carry out certain actions or risk being fined by the Equal Opportunities Board.

Other Acts Prohibiting Discrimination

There are four other acts that prohibit discrimination in addition to the Equal Opportunities Act. They are

(i) the Act against Discrimination in the Workplace on Grounds of Ethnic Background, Religion or Other Religious Belief,

(ii) the Act Against Discrimination on the Ground of Sexual Orientation,

(iii) the Act Against Discrimination of Employees with Disabilities and finally

(iv) the Act Against Discrimination of Employees Working Part-time or on Fixed-term Agreements.
 
The first three acts are similar in their design. They are all applicable in the same situations, which include inter alia

(i) when the employer is recruiting employees,

(ii) when the employer promotes employees,

(iii) when the employer applies terms and conditions of employment, including the setting of salaries,

(iv) when the employer performs the day-to-day management of the work and

(v) when the employer decides to terminate or dismiss employees.
 
All three acts prohibit both direct and indirect discrimination. Furthermore, they prohibit the employer from harassing both job applicants and employees and they also prohibit employers from subjecting employees who have reported discriminations or participated in investigations of discrimination to reprisals.
 
An employer is obligated to initiate an investigation upon receiving knowledge that an employee deems himself/herself to have been the victim of discrimination. If the conclusion of such an investigation is that an employee has been discriminated against, the employer shall take any reasonable action to prevent discrimination from occurring in the future.
 
All three acts provide that an agreement is invalid to the extent that its provisions are discriminatory. Furthermore, an employee or a job applicant that has been the victim of discrimination is entitled to receive damages, both for the offence itself and for any economic loss that the discrimination has caused.
 
The Act against Discrimination in the Workplace on Grounds of Ethnic Background, Religion or Other Religious Belief is different from the other two acts in one respect. It includes provisions that the employer shall work actively to promote equal rights and opportunities for its employees, regardless of their ethnic background or religious beliefs.
 
The fourth act, the Act Against Discrimination of Employees Working Part-time or on Fixed-term Agreements, prohibits both direct and indirect discrimination of part-time and fixed-term employees. Again, an agreement is invalid to the extent that its provisions are discriminatory. In addition, an employee who has been the victim of discrimination is entitled to receive damages, both for the offence itself and for any economic loss that the discrimination has caused.