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Czech Republic: Equal opportunities

Original and updating authors: Jaroslav Škubal, Tereza Erényi and Daniel Vejsada, PRK Partners Prague
Consultant editor: Marie Janšová, Legalité

Summary

  • Both direct and indirect discrimination are prohibited in access to employment, remuneration and employment conditions on specified grounds. (See General)
  • A difference of treatment based on any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination does not constitute unlawful discrimination where the ground constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement. (See Exemptions)
  • Harassment and sexual harassment constitute unlawful discrimination and are prohibited at the workplace. (See Harassment and sexual harassment)
  • Employees must not be victimised for making a complaint of discrimination, reporting such behaviour or participating in any investigative process. (See Victimisation)
  • Where this is done with a view to ensuring equal treatment and opportunities in practice, employers are permitted to take measures to prevent or compensate for disadvantages linked to any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination. (See Positive action)
  • Employers are under a general obligation to ensure the equal treatment of all employees with regard to employment conditions, remuneration, vocational training and opportunities for career advancement. (See Active measures)
  • An employee or job applicant who has suffered unlawful discrimination or been subject to unequal treatment, may bring a court case against the employer. (See Remedies and penalties)

General

Discrimination is prohibited in access to employment, remuneration and employment conditions on grounds of:

  • sex - including pregnancy, maternity, paternity and sexual identification;
  • sexual orientation;
  • race or ethnic origin;
  • nationality;
  • citizenship;
  • social origin;
  • family lineage;
  • language;
  • health (including disability);
  • age;
  • religion or belief;
  • political or other opinion - including activities in political parties or political movements, trade unions or employers' organisations;
  • property; and
  • marital and family status or obligations to family.

The prohibition of discrimination covers:

  • direct discrimination, defined as where one person is treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation, on any of the prohibited grounds;
  • indirect discrimination, defined as where, on the basis of an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice, one person is disadvantaged in comparison with another, on any of the prohibited grounds;
  • harassment and sexual harassment (see Harassment and sexual harassment);
  • instructions or incitement to discriminate; and
  • victimisation (see Victimisation).

As well as not discriminating on the above grounds, employers are obliged to ensure the equal treatment of all employees with regard to employment conditions, remuneration and other payments in cash and in kind, vocational training and opportunities for career advancement.

For the purposes of anti-discrimination legislation, disability is defined as any physical, sensory, mental, intellectual or other disability, lasting or expected to last at least one year, that restrains or may restrain a person from exercising his or her right to equal treatment. Indirect discrimination on grounds of disability is defined as an employer's refusal or failure to make reasonable accommodation to ensure that a person with disabilities has access to employment, promotion or vocational training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden. In deciding whether or not a particular measure constitutes a disproportionate burden, account should be taken of:

  • the extent to which the measure would benefit the disabled person;
  • the costs and disruption that would result from taking the measure;
  • the availability of financial or other assistance for implementing the measure; and
  • the adequacy of alternative measures to meet the needs of the disabled person.

Employers are under a general obligation to take the necessary technical and organisational measures, at their own expense, to enable employees with disabilities to perform their work. These measures include the necessary adaptation of working conditions and workplaces, as well as training the employees concerned and improving their skills/qualifications.

Exemptions

A difference of treatment based on any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination (see General) does not constitute unlawful discrimination where, because of the nature of the work activities, the different treatment constitutes a substantial requirement necessary for work performance, provided that the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate.

Indirect discrimination on any of the prohibited grounds may be lawful, if the indirectly discriminatory provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

Differential treatment on the grounds of age is permitted where:

  • a minimum age limit, or a requirement for a minimum period of vocational training or previous employment, is necessary for an employee to be able to perform the work properly, or to have specific rights and obligations necessary to perform the job; or
  • the amount of vocational training that the employer must provide in order to enable a new recruit to perform the work properly is disproportionate in comparison to the date at which the person applying for the job will reach pensionable age (see Czech Republic: Pay and benefits > Pensions).

Differential treatment in recruitment on the grounds of religion is permitted in the case of employees of churches and religious organisations. This applies where the nature of the work, or the context in which it is carried out, means that a particular religion or belief constitutes a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement with regard to the ethos of the church or religious organisation.

Special measures to protect pregnant women and mothers (see Czech Republic: Employee rights > Maternity and pregnancy rights), people with disabilities (see Czech Republic: Recruitment and selection > People with disabilities) and people under the age of 18 (see Czech Republic: Recruitment and selection > Young people and children) do not constitute unlawful discrimination, if the means of achieving their aim is appropriate and necessary. Such special measures may be based on statute, a collective agreement, an employment contract or the employer's policies.

Harassment and sexual harassment

Harassment is defined as unwanted conduct related to the prohibited grounds of discrimination (see General) that:

  • has the purpose or effect of reducing a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment; or
  • can reasonably be perceived as influencing decisions affecting the performance of rights and obligations arising out of legal relationships.

Sexual harassment is defined as the same conduct that constitutes harassment, where this conduct has a sexual nature.

Both harassment and sexual harassment constitute unlawful discrimination and are prohibited at the workplace.

Victimisation

If an employer treats adversely, punishes or disadvantages an employee on the grounds of exercising rights under anti-discrimination legislation, this constitutes unlawful discrimination. An employee must therefore not be victimised for making a complaint of discrimination, reporting such behaviour or participating in any investigative process.

Positive action

Where this is done with a view to ensuring or restoring equal treatment and opportunities in practice, employers are permitted to take measures to prevent or compensate for disadvantages linked to any of the prohibited grounds of discrimination (see General). Such measures do not constitute unlawful discrimination. However, in the area of recruitment and promotion, such positive action measures must not involve giving preference to a person who is less well qualified than any other person under consideration for the position concerned.

Employers with more than 25 employees must employ a certain quota of employees with disabilities or, if they do not, take certain compensatory measures (see Czech Republic: Recruitment and selection > People with disabilities).

Active measures

Employers have no statutory obligation to take specific active measures to promote equality, such as implementing equality plans or drawing up equality reports. However, they are under a general obligation to ensure the equal treatment of all employees with regard to employment conditions, remuneration and other payments in cash and in kind, vocational training and opportunities for career advancement (see General). Further, an employer is deemed responsible for any unlawful discrimination that occurs at the workplace, and it may be advisable for employers to take measures to prevent discriminatory behaviour to avoid liability for damages (see Remedies and penalties).

Remedies and penalties

If an employee or job applicant believes that he or she has suffered unlawful discrimination in relation to employment on any of the prohibited grounds (see General), or been subject to any unequal treatment, he or she may bring a court case against the employer. This applies to all forms of discrimination - including harassment/sexual harassment (see Harassment and sexual harassment) and victimisation (see Victimisation) - and unequal treatment by the employer, or by any employee of the employer.

In court cases relating to discrimination and equal treatment, the claimant may seek an order that the employer must cease the behaviour in question without undue delay, remedy any consequences of the behaviour and provide reasonable satisfaction, such as an apology, or compensation (usually financial) for material damages caused. If these remedies are considered insufficient, notably because the discriminatory behaviour has damaged the claimant's dignity or social status, a court may also award financial compensation for non-material damages. The amount of compensation is left to the court's discretion, and awards are generally not very high.

In discrimination cases, if the claimant establishes facts from which it may be presumed that discrimination has occurred, the employer must prove that there has been no breach of the principle of equal treatment.

If an employee believes that he or she has been dismissed on discriminatory grounds, the employee may bring a court case seeking to have the dismissal ruled invalid, in the same way as in other cases of allegedly invalid dismissal (see Czech Republic: Termination of employment > Contesting dismissals in court).

Regional labour inspectorates (see Czech Republic: Health and safety > Enforcement and penalties) monitor and enforce compliance with anti-discrimination and equal treatment legislation. If an inspector finds an infringement by an employer of the relevant provisions, it can order the employer to take remedial action and/or start administrative proceedings, which may lead to the imposition of a fine of up to CZK 1,000,000.

Employees and job applicants who believe that they have suffered unlawful discrimination or unequal treatment may obtain free assistance from the statutory Public Defender of Rights (Verejný ochránce práv). The Public Defender of Rights may give legal advice and provide assistance in bringing court cases. However, it is not empowered to impose sanctions or bring court cases itself.

Associations whose purpose is the protection of people against discrimination are also entitled to provide legal assistance to victims of discrimination, and may represent them in court. Further, such associations may ask the relevant regional labour inspectorate to investigate an employer and/or start administrative proceedings (see above).

Sources/references

The main items of legislation dealing with equal opportunities and non-discrimination are the Anti-Discrimination Act (Act no. 198/2009 Coll., as amended), the Labour Code (Act no. 262/2006 Coll., as amended), Labour Inspection Act (Act no. 251/2005 Coll., as amended) and the Act on Employment (Act no. 435/2004 Coll., as amended). Court proceedings in discrimination cases are governed by the Civil Procedure Code (Act no. 99/1963 Coll., as amended).