Discrimination on the work floor: A new item of attention for the (near) future?
- Leila Mstoian - Marcel Houben
In any event, the lack of attention so far for the discrimination legislation should not be
understood as an indication that there would be few or no problems in daily life. At the occasion
of the decision of the employment tribunal of Ghent, UNIA, the Interfederal Equal Opportunity
Centre, has called the attention to the fact that, by way of example, discrimination on the basis
of age, although it often remains under the radar, constitutes a real problem, that will become
more important as a result of the rise in the ageing population.
The poor attention in daily life is even more surprising because governmental institutions, such as UNIA, have been established particularly in order to fight all kinds of discrimination.
Beyond any doubt, it is very important in that respect that UNIA, at its own initiative, can initiate judicial procedures as claiming party at the occasion of individual infringements, subject to the consent of the aggrieved party. As an example of such action, reference can be made to the case before the employment tribunal of Ghent.
A tricky item in cases involving discrimination is the furnishing of proof, which is to be submitted in principle by the claiming party, unless this party can demonstrate facts, which may create an assumption of the existence of discrimination on the basis of one of the banned grounds. In that case, the defending party must submit evidence of absence of all discrimination.
In the case before the employment tribunal of Ghent, submitting evidence was not a problem: a representative of the kitchen manufacturer had replied to the applicant in all honesty and sincerity that he had the right profile for the vacant job, but that he nevertheless would not be invited for an interview because of his age (59 years)!
It is to be expected that cases of this nature will result in an increasing attention for discrimination issues and that also employers will be facing more and more claims based on discrimination.
An additional reason to be cautious, even more so because court decisions may provide UNIA with good justifications to keep sight of violators.