An employer is under the duty to respect the dignity and other personal rights of an employee and employees have equal rights for equal performance of the same duties. This principle in particular is applied to the equal treatment of men and women at work. It is not permissible to discriminate against an employee, either directly or indirectly, especially on the grounds of a person’s sex, age, disability, race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, trade union membership, ethnic origin, denomination, sexual orientation, as well as employment for a definite or indefinite term or on a full-time or part-time basis.
Extent of Protection
Equal treatment in employment is defined as prohibition of any discrimination, direct or indirect, on any grounds, especially those referred hereinabove. It is the employer’s obligation to prevent discrimination in employment. Breaching of this obligation is a justified reason for termination of the employment contract without notice by employee.
Direct discrimination occurs where based on above factors one employee is treated less favorably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation. Indirect discrimination occurs where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice puts or would put all or a large number of employees belonging to a particular group at a particular disadvantage or disproportion on one or more grounds listed hereinbefore as regards the establishment and termination of their employment relationship, terms and conditions of employment, promotion and access to training for the development of their professional qualifications, unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim is appropriate and necessary.
Protections Against Harassment
Any unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of an employee and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment is treated as harassment, and sexual harassment is defined as any form of unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or referring to a person’s sex, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, including verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct. Employees have similar rights regarding both discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
Workplace bullying (“mobbing”) is any act or behaviour relating to an employee or targeted against an employee that involves persistent and long-term bullying or intimidation, resulting in lower self-evaluation by the employee of his professional abilities, with the purpose or effect of humiliating or ridiculing, isolating or eliminating that employee from the team.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
It is an employer’s obligation to provide a workplace adequately adapted for disabled persons. The employer must take into account the limited motor abilities of disabled workers. This includes the need for adaptation to a reduced operability of the communication routes within the building, stairs (elevator) doors, windows, bathrooms, etc.
Disabled persons have additional rights, as their working time may be shortened, leave may be extended and additional breaks at work may be granted. However their rights depend on the level of disability adjudicated by respective authority. Nightshifts and overtimes are strictly forbidden.
In the event of discrimination, employees can claim damages in a court proceeding. A person against whom the employer has violated the principle of equal treatment in employment, has the right to compensation of at least the amount of the minimum remuneration for work, as defined in separate regulations.
It is the employer’s duty to prove that in differentiating the employee’s situation, he has based his decisions on objective reasons.
The fact that an employee has exercised his/her rights due to a violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment, may not constitute a reason for the disadvantageous treatment of the employee and may not result in any negative consequences toward the employee; in particular, it may not constitute grounds for the termination of an employment relationship by an employer, with or without notice.
A bullied employee has additional rights if his/her health has deteriorated as a result of bullying at work, and may claim financial compensation from the employer for the damage suffered, in particular if he/her terminated the employment contract as a result of the incident. The employee’s statement of will when terminating the employment contract, must be made in writing, giving the grounds for termination that justify the termination thereof.
Employers are obliged to act against discrimination in employment. This also includes preventive actions. The employer should inform the employees of the kinds of actions that constitute examples of discrimination in employment, and how to react to witnessed or experienced violations.
The employer must provide employees with the contents of provisions concerning equal treatment in employment in the form of written information announced in the work establishment, or must ensure that employees have access to these provisions in other standard methods used by the employer. In Poland, it is quite a common practice among employers to introduce specific anti-discrimination policies.