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Case Law

Labour Court in Szczecin
24/04/2008
Legal provision Directive 2000/43/EC
Area Employment & training
Form of Discrimination Harassment
Grounds of discrimination Discrimination on ground of racial or ethnic origin
Topic Reversal of burden of proof, Employer's responsibility , Discrimination by private parties
Employment , Discrimination on ground of racial or ethnic origin , Poland .
Key facts of the case:

M.M., an ex call centre consultant, filed the claim against his former employer in the labour court, claiming damages for infringement of the principle of equal treatment. In the claimant’s opinion, the discrimination resulted from the employer’s instruction to communicate solely in the German language at work and the termination of the M.M.’s employment contract which occurred when the former disobeyed this instruction. The employer claimed that no discrimination took place since the order concerned all employees and the reasons for termination were the employer’s objections regarding the claimant’s professional conduct.

Main reasoning/argumentation:

In order to establish whether the equal treatment principle had been actually infringed, the court had to decide if the employer’s order concerned all the employees, i.e. whether it was enforced also in other departments apart from the ‘German’ department, and whether it concerned employees other than consultants or also related to private conversations. The court also decided that it was material to examine the manner in which the order had been introduced and the reasons for its introduction. The subject of the court’s consideration was whether the order infringed the dignity of the employees, was based on a xenophobic premise and was proportionate as to the goal expected to be achieved by its introduction. As regards the termination issue, the court obliged the employer to prove that the dismissal of M.M. was not discriminatory.

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

The equal treatment principle had been infringed since at first the employer issued the order in question only for the German call-centre consultants who, in practice, were the only ones disciplined in respect of the prohibition of using Polish. The objective which the employer intended to achieve by imposing the order was disproportionate to the means used. Since the form of the order’s introduction infringed the dignity of the employees, the employer’s acts constituted discrimination in the form of harassment. As regards the termination of employment, the court found that the claimant had reasonably substantiated that the discrimination took place while the employer had been unable to prove that it had used an objective criterion when dismissing M.M.: according to the monthly employees performance evaluation, M.M. was not a worse employee than other members of the respondent’s staff; still, the latter was the only one who was dismissed.

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

The court ruled for the claimant, awarding damages for discrimination in the form of harassment equal to the monthly remuneration for work in 2008 of PLN 1,126 (the lowest wage) and the damages for discrimination constituting in termination the claimant’s employment contract of PLN 3,300 (the claimant’s remuneration for three months). In determining the amount of the damages, the court applied the principle of the calculation of damages applied in the event of unlawful termination of an employment contract. The respondent was also obliged to reimburse the claimant’s costs and cover the court fees.