MINELRES: ERRC: Bulgarian Court Fines Employer for Denying Access to Employment

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed Nov 16 19:55:01 2005


Original sender: European Roma Rights Centre <errc@errc.org>


Trial court finds discrimination by inference and awards Romani victim 
compensation in full

Sofia, Budapest, 16 November 2005. With ERRC support, a young Romani man has 
won a judgment by the Sofia District court, finding that the refusal of a 
private business to hire him constituted direct discrimination based on his 
ethnicity. The court has awarded him the full amount of compensation he sought 
for non-pecuniary damages - the approximate equivalent in Bulgarian Leva of 300 
Euro. The ruling, which is based on the Protection Against Discrimination Act, 
Bulgaria's comprehensive antidiscrimination law, is the first to find 
discrimination by inference, in accordance with the special rule of the 
shifting burden of proof in discrimination cases.

The facts of the case are as follows: In December 2003, the claimant, Mr. 
Metody Assenov, age 22, sought to apply for a job as a food production worker 
with the respondent, Lubimka Ltd. In response to a job advertisement in the 
paper, he placed a telephone call to Lubimka Ltd. to inquire about the terms 
and conditions to apply. An employee told him that there was no requirement 
other than to be a male younger than 30. She also told him, explicitly, that no 
Roma need apply, as no Roma would be hired. In February 2004, the job 
advertisement reappeared, and Mr. Assenov called again, making no mention of 
his ethnicity. He was invited for an interview. At the interview, the employees 
of Lubimka Ltd. treated him less favourably than other job applicants present 
by trying to ignore him, and by discouraging him from expecting to be hired. He 
had to insist to be interviewed, and to have his details recorded. He was told 
the job was too hard, and he was not likely to enjoy it, and that there were 
many other applicants. Several weeks later, upon inquiry, he was told that he 
had not been hired. He was not offered any explanation of the reason for the 
refusal.

In court, representatives of Lubimka Ltd. argued that their refusal to hire Mr. 
Assenov was not race-based, but for a legitimate reason, which was the 
claimant's lack of proper qualifications. The court did not consider this 
sufficiently established, as there was no evidence that Mr. Assenov had lesser 
qualifications than the applicants who had been hired. The court found that 
there was enough circumstantial evidence to point to a causal link between Mr. 
Assenov's ethnicity and Lubimka Ltd.'s refusal to hire him. In addition, the 
court found Lubimka Ltd.'s hiring practices to be non-transparent, lacking 
clear, pre-set, duly published criteria. The court held that it was impossible, 
therefore, to exclude the conclusion that selection was arbitrary and 
discriminatory. The court further ruled that this constituted sufficient 
grounds to presume that the claimant was denied a job because of his race, and 
to shift the burden of proof to Lubimka Ltd. to rebut the inference of 
discrimination. When representatives of Lubimka Ltd. failed to do so, the court 
ruled that discrimination had been established in the case. The court's 
reasoning includes express language on the principle of the shifting of the 
burden of proof in discrimination cases, in line with established case law in 
the European Union.

On the occasion of the ruling, ERRC Legal Director Dianne Post said: "The 
court's ruling in this case not only brings compensation to a Romani victim; it 
also importantly for the first time implements key elements of the EU anti-
discrimination law acquis in Bulgaria."

Counsel for the claimant was the ERRC's Sofia-based consultant on race 
discrimination litigation, Margarita Ilieva, in cooperation with local "Romani 
Baht" Foundation lawyer Daniela Mihaylova. The judgment is not final.

For further information on the case, please contact ERRC Legal Director Dianne 
Post at 
+36-1-413-2221 (dianne.post@errc.org), or Margarita Ilieva 
at +359-2-943-4876 (margarita@bghelsinki.org).
_____________________________________________

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law 
organisation which monitors the rights of Roma and provides legal defence in 
cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European Roma 
Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at http://www.errc.org.

European Roma Rights Centre
1386 Budapest 62
P.O. Box 906/93
Hungary

Phone: +36 1 4132200
Fax: +36 1 4132201
_____________________________________________

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