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Slovak appeals court confirms that town discriminated against Romani woman and must compensate her

31.3.2018 14:04
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The Slovak town of Spišská Nová Ves discriminated against a Romani woman during a selection procedure for a job as a field social worker and must now compensate her. The Regional Court in Košice fully identified with and upheld the first-instance judgment of the District Court in Spišská Nová Ves, which ruled to that effect in March 2017.

This is one of the first such judgments to take effect from the Slovak courts in a case of racial discrimination in access to employment that has found in favor of the discriminated person. The Romani woman applied for a job as a field social worker in Spišská Nová Ves in 2010.

Despite the fact that she had the required education and many years of practice with field work in Romani communities, another applicant was hired for the job who was not Romani, was less qualified, had less practical experience, and did not speak Romanes. The Fund for Social Development, which was financing the position at the time, subsequently expressed doubts about the lawfulness of the course of the selection procedure at the instigation of the discriminated woman, Ms Pompová - but of course, the fund was not able to reverse the town's decision.

Ms Pompová's efforts to achieve justice have lasted almost eight years. The District Court and the Regional Court initially rejected her lawsuit.

The case was also ruled on by the Constitutional Court of Slovakia, which heard her complaint in December 2015 and returned the entire case to the District Court to try again. In March 2017 that court decided in favor of the plaintiff and the case subsequently made its way to the Regional Court in Košice after the town appealed.

The Regional Court's judgment has now confirmed that the town discriminated against the woman in her access to employment because of her ethnicity. In addition to an apology, the town must pay the woman compensation for her non-pecuniary damages in the amount of EUR 2 500.

In its judgment, the Regional Court fully identified with the justification of the District Court, which stated that the town had not managed to explain its hiring of an applicant with lower qualifications and less practical experience through any kind of rational argument, and that the town had also not managed to explain the doubts that arose about the transparency of the entire selection process. However, neither court awarded the plaintiff compensation in the fully requested amount of EUR 5 000.

Both courts stated that the EUR 2 500 awarded was adequate compensation. The decision has taken effect and can no longer be appealed.

The plaintiff had the following to say about the Regional Court judgment: "This decision by the Regional Court has greatly pleased me. I am very glad that my effort to seek justice was ultimately not in vain. I believe my success could inspire others to not fear standing up to discrimination, human rights violations, and iniquity. Employers should never refuse people seeking jobs just because of their ethnic origin. I also believe my case will improve the way courts decide such cases for others in the future."

Free legal aid for the plaintiff during the court proceedings has been facilitated this entire time by the NGO Center for Civil and Human Rights, which is based in Košice. An attorney collaborating with the center who was the plaintiff's legal representative, Vanda Durbáková, had this to say about the court decision: "The verdict of the Regional Court in favor of this client is something I see as positive. However, the courts must fundamentally accelerate their decision-making in cases of discrimination in the future and the discriminated persons must be adequately compensated. It is crucial that the courts send the clear signal that it does not pay to discriminate."

press release of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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