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Czech Republic: Business owner openly admits she would never employ Roma

Prague, 10.11.2011 16:21, (ROMEA)
Bohumila Ševčíková:  "I don't hire Romani women" (PHOTO:  Czech Television)

More and more Romani people in the Czech Republic have recently encountered potential employers openly refusing to hire them because of their origins. Experts say there is a direct link between such incidents and the tense situation in the Šluknov foothills. Labor offices say they have been unable to prove that such behavior occurs, butCzech Television recently filmed one such example on hidden camera.

Employers often refer to previous bad experiences when rejecting Romani job seekers. Dana Pacíková, who wore a hidden camera for Czech Television during a job interview, confirmed this when she tried to get a job at a laundry in Běchovice. The owner, Bohumila Ševčíková, told her directly that she does not hire Romani women. Simona Šenkiová, another Romani job seeker, was also rejected by Ševčíková after the Labor Office sent her there to seek work. "Maybe she did have a bad experience with someone, but everyone is not the same, she should give someone else a chance," Šenkiová believes. The owner, however, insists on her policy and even repeated it on camera for Czech Television during a subsequent interview: "I don't hire Romani people. I did it once and I had problems."

Not so long ago, Romani people were used to learning during job interviews that their potential employer had just filled the position they were interested in, or were told to come back another time. Cases of open rejection because of their origin started turning up after the start of the unrest this year in the Šluknov district. "The only thing that makes sense, when the situation is escalating like this, is for as many Romani people as possible to be employed. Their cultural standards will start rising if they are included," author and journalist Karel Hvížďala told Czech Television.

Even though Ševčíková's hiring policy contravenes the Anti-Discrimination Act, some politicians have praised it, such as Czech Senator Jaroslav Doubrava (North Bohemians Movement - Severočeši), Czech Senator Jiří Čunek (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL) and the chair of the Free Citizens' Party (Strana Svobodných), Petr Mach. Czech daily Parlamentní listy quotes Mach as saying "common sense dictates that a person has the right to conclude a contract with whomever he wants and has the right not to conclude a contract with whomever he does not want. Ms Ševčíková behaved according to common sense and the principles of natural law, but now the journalists have sniffed her out."

Mach said he is aware that "decent" Romani people who want to work are in a difficult position because they are often rejected due to employers' allegedly bad experiences with other Romani workers and said he believes employers who don't hire "decent, hard-working" Romani people are only harming themselves: "If, because of prejudice, someone does not hire Romani people who would be more beneficial to his firm than other workers, then that employer is just punishing himself, depriving himself of the profits he could achieve if he invested his money in the better, higher-quality workers whom he has instead rejected on the basis of prejudice." Mach does not believe, hower, that an authority to fine such employers is necessary.

Lawyers with the Czech Labor Office Inspection Authority will now be dealing with the case of Simona Šenkiová's rejection. She told Czech Television that this bad experience will not keep her from continuing to seek work.

Gwendolyn Albert, Czech Television, Parlamentní listy, jr, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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