Employment: Ambulance company fined for origin discrimination
Thursday, 25 February 2021
A court in Ghent has fined a private ambulance company €4,000 for discrimination on the basis of national origin, for only the second time since the relevant law was passed 40 years ago, Unia reports.
Unia is the former Centre for Equal Opportunities and the Fight Against Racism.
The man concerned, who originally came from Eastern Europe, applied for a job with the company as a driver, though the website of the Flemish government’s training and employment agency VDAB.
He is a Belgian citizen, but his name and place of birth, contained in his CV, made his origin clear.
The owner of the company replied to what he thought was the VDAB, but his reply in fact came directly to the applicant.
“Foreigner, 22 years old, no experience, so there’s no need to forward this to me,” the owner replied.
“No foreigners, no people without experience and no women with young children, that is doomed in advance to failure.”
The applicant – who did in fact have experience of employment as a driver – brought his case to Unia, which joined his case for discrimination as a civil party.
“We thought it was very important to be a civil party in this case,” explained Els Keytsman, director of Unia, in a statement.
“On the basis of the 1981 Anti-Racism Act, there had been only one criminal conviction against an employer who deliberately discriminated on the basis of origin. We wanted to send a signal to society that discrimination on grounds of origin in employment relationships is not only prohibited by law, but that it can also be punishable if deliberate action is taken. The court decision is a signal that cannot be misunderstood.”
The man is now working as a driver with a transport company. Unia now intends to accompany him and his trade union in pursuing a civil complaint for damages against the ambulance company. The law allows for compensation of up to six months net salary for the job applied for.
Unia has also informed the Institute for Equality Between Women and Men of the case, given that the misdirected letter also mentions ‘women with young children’ who may also have been discriminated against.