international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Belgium: Mystery calls: new tool to prove discrimination in Belgium

The Belgian federal government has concluded that a discrimination complaint (based on protected criteria, such as age, race, gender or belief) rarely leads to a criminal prosecution, because it is very difficult for the social inspectorate to prove discrimination.

Mystery shopping/calling is a technique that is made available for this purpose to the civil servants who are in charge of monitoring the respect of anti-discrimination laws.

Social inspectors are however not allowed to just carry out tests in a company:

  • There has to be objective data that points to discrimination. According to the law, a complaint or a report, supported by results of “data mining and data matching”, would suffice.
  • The prior permission of a magistrate (labor auditor or public prosecutor) is required. This also allows the magistrate to indicate what strictly necessary (minor) criminal offenses (eg. the use of a false name) the social inspector may commit in the execution of his assignment.

Furthermore, mystery shopping/calling may only be used if there is no other way to prove discrimination.

It is also explicitly forbidden for social inspectors to trigger or provoke certain behaviors or statements. After all, mystery shopping/calling should not result in creating a discriminatory situation and should be limited to creating the possibility of revealing a discriminatory practice.