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Case Law

Sad Najwyzszy [Supreme Court]
05/10/2007
Area Employment & training
Form of Discrimination Direct discrimination
Grounds of discrimination Discrimination on ground of racial or ethnic origin
Topic Discrimination by private parties
Employment , legal finding, court decision , Discrimination on ground of racial or ethnic origin , Poland .
Key facts of the case:

Three Polish nationals were employed as petrol station cashiers in the town of Z. (Poland). The employer terminated them and employed Germans instead, with higher pay. The Poles filed actions with the labour court seeking damages for violation of equal employment rights and the prohibition against employment discrimination. The complainants alleged their nationality was the basis for the discrimination/unequal treatment, as the employer treated Germans more favourably than Poles.
The courts of first and second instance dismissed the complaints. The complainants filed for cassation with the Supreme Court.


Main reasoning/argumentation:

Pursuant to equal treatment principles, employees are entitled to equal pay for equal work or work of equal value, where work of equal value is something which requires comparable qualifications, responsibility, and effort. The complainants argued that aside from the pay and nationality of the German employees, the employment relationship remained identical. The employer claimed the German employees' language and cultural skills were evidence of their higher qualifications and greater responsibilities.

Key issues (concepts, interpretations) clarified by the case:

The Supreme Court ruled on whether the labour code proscribes discriminating employees based on skills resulting from nationality/citizenship as illegal discrimination based on nationality. The Supreme Court considered the employer's right to select employees who best correspond to its needs and the specifics of the given company. The defendant company works mainly with clients from Germany. As such, the language and cultural skills of German employees constituted additional valuable qualifications to this employer to service and obtain clients from Germany. Therefore, the court did not find illegal discrimination in this case.

Results (sanctions) and key consequences or implications of the case:

The Supreme Court dismissed the cassation motion, agreeing with the interpretation of the courts of lower instance.