Since 2009, the Ombudsman has acted in the role of the national equality body responsible for equal treatment and protection against discrimination. The Ombudsman’s goal is to provide victims of discrimination with methodological assistance, conduct research in the area of discrimination and issue recommendations to promote equal treatment.
While the “traditional” competence of the Ombudsman only applies to authorities and institutions performing State administration, in the area of discrimination, the Ombudsman may also address complaints against discriminatory conduct of municipalities (e.g. in renting of municipal flats), employers (in recruitment procedure, remuneration, termination of employment, etc.), vendors (in offering products and services), schools and others.
In general, discrimination means different treatment in comparable situations without a reasonable justification. The feeling of being discriminated against is not sufficient in itself – legally speaking, discrimination only means conduct described and prohibited by law. The Anti-Discrimination Act lists the grounds based on which discrimination is inadmissible. These grounds include race, ethnic background, nationality, sex and gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, belief or world view. At the same time, the Anti-Discrimination Act defines situations where discrimination is prohibited. These include areas of employment, business, education, healthcare and provision of goods and services, including housing, if offered to the public.
Some other laws (such as the Schools Act, the Labour Code, the Consumer Protection Act, etc.) prohibit discrimination on other grounds, e.g., on the grounds of membership in trade unions and political parties, on the grounds of family status, social background, property, etc. Compliance with these regulations is supervised by other inspection bodies, such as the Czech Schools Inspectorate, the Czech Trade Inspection Authority, and the Labour Inspectorate.
Termination of employment on grounds of age
As Marie reached her retirement age, her employer wanted to get rid of her and several other of her older colleagues. He tried to force them to accept an agreement on termination of employment. Those who did not accept lost annual bonuses and were threatened with a transfer to positions that would make their job as unpleasant as possible in order to force them to leave. When this intimidation tactic did not work, the employer gave them notice on grounds of redundancy, but announced a selection procedure for positions corresponding to their former positions immediately afterwards. Marie did not accept this form of discrimination and decided to defend herself. We confirmed that the employer’s conduct amounted to age discrimination. Marie turned to court and succeeded. The court decided that her notice of termination on grounds of redundancy was invalid. The employer appealed, but did not succeed. The case was finally closed by the Supreme Court, which upheld the decisions of the lower courts.
Prohibition of entry into a store with a baby carriage
An owner of a grocery store prohibited baby carriages from entering by placing a “no baby carriages” sign on the door. Ivana did not want to leave her two-year-old son outside unattended because the store was sufficiently spacious for her to enter even with the baby carriage. Therefore, she turned to the Czech Trade Inspection Authority, which, however, refused to deal with her problem. In the end, Ivana contacted the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman assessed the situation as indirect discrimination on grounds of sex/gender. Although it may seem at first glance that business owners may set whatever conditions they consider appropriate, this is not always the case. Business owners, too, must avoid unlawful discrimination – their conditions and rules must not unfairly affect parents of young children when buying goods. After being notified by the Ombudsman, the store operator removed the sign. Customers’ safety can also be ensured by means other than full ban on entry of people with baby carriages. If the store is not full of customers and this does not endanger safety, the operator will allow people to enter with baby carriages.
Non-assignment of a municipal flat due to ethnicity
Růžena needed to move into a flat that would better suit her disabled son. She twice applied for a municipal flat, won the tender procedure twice, but the municipality did not conclude a lease contract with her. Růžena did not like the procedure taken by the municipality and turned to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman found that the municipality had treated Růžena differently compared to the other applicants. Non-Roma applicants who fulfilled the conditions for assigning a flat did get the contract. On the other hand, Růžena as a Roma person did not. The Ombudsman stated that this was a case of discrimination and recommended Růžena to file a lawsuit unless she reached an agreement with the municipality. The municipality acknowledged its error and concluded a lease contract with Růžena for an indefinite term.