Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation
Article 1 – Purpose
The purpose of this Directive is to lay down a general framework for combating discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as regards employment and occupation, with a view to putting into effect in the Member States the principle of equal treatment.
Article 2 – Concept of discrimination
1. For the purposes of this Directive, the “principle of equal treatment” shall mean that there shall be no direct or indirect discrimination whatsoever on any of the grounds referred to in Article 1.
2. For the purposes of paragraph 1:
(a) direct discrimination shall be taken to occur where one person is treated less favourably than another is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation, on any of the grounds referred to in Article 1;
(b) indirect discrimination shall be taken to occur where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put persons having a particular religion or belief, a particular disability, a particular age, or a particular sexual orientation at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons (…).
3. Harassment shall be deemed to be a form of discrimination within the meaning of paragraph 1, when unwanted conduct related to any of the grounds referred to in Article 1 takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. In this context, the concept of harassment may be defined in accordance with the national laws and practice of the Member States.
4. An instruction to discriminate against persons on any of the grounds referred to in Article 1 shall be deemed to be discrimination within the meaning of paragraph 1.
Article 5 – Reasonable accommodation for disabled persons
In order to guarantee compliance with the principle of equal treatment in relation to persons with disabilities, reasonable accommodation shall be provided. This means that employers shall take appropriate measures, where needed in a particular case, to enable a person with a disability to have access to, participate in, or advance in employment, or to undergo training, unless such measures would impose a disproportionate burden on the employer. This burden shall not be disproportionate when it is sufficiently remedied by measures existing within the framework of the disability policy of the Member State concerned.
Article 7 – Positive action
1. With a view to ensuring full equality in practice, the principle of equal treatment shall not prevent any Member State from maintaining or adopting specific measures to prevent or compensate for disadvantages linked to any of the grounds referred to in Article 1.
2. With regard to disabled persons, the principle of equal treatment shall be without prejudice to the right of Member States to maintain or adopt provisions on the protection of health and safety at work or to measures aimed at creating or maintaining provisions or facilities for safeguarding or promoting their integration into the working environment.
Article 9 – Defence of rights
1. Member States shall ensure that judicial and/or administrative procedures, including where they deem it appropriate conciliation procedures, for the enforcement of obligations under this Directive are available to all persons who consider themselves wronged by failure to apply the principle of equal treatment to them, even after the relationship in which the discrimination is alleged to have occurred has ended.
2. Member States shall ensure that associations, organisations or other legal entities which have, in accordance with the criteria laid down by their national law, a legitimate interest in ensuring that the provisions of this Directive are complied with, may engage, either on behalf or in support of the complainant, with his or her approval, in any judicial and/or administrative procedure provided for the enforcement of obligations under this Directive. (…).
Council Directive 2000/78/EC aims to ensure that persons of a particular religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation do not suffer from discrimination and instead enjoy equal treatment in the workplace.
It covers both direct discrimination (differential treatment based on a specific characteristic) and indirect discrimination (any provision, criterion or practice which is apparently neutral but puts the people in the above categories at a disadvantage compared to others). Harassment, which creates a hostile environment, is deemed to be discrimination.
The directive applies to all individuals, whether they are working in the public or private sectors, in relation to:
- conditions of access to employed or self-employed activities, including selection criteria and recruitment conditions and including promotion;
- vocational training;
- employment and working conditions (including dismissals and pay);
- membership of and involvement in an organisation of employers or workers or any other organisation whose members carry out a particular profession.
The directive does not cover differences of treatment based on nationality or payments of any kind made by State schemes, including State social security or social protection schemes.
EU countries are obliged to ensure that judicial and/or administrative procedures are available to all people who consider themselves wronged by a failure to apply the principle of equal treatment to them. This still applies even after the relationship in which the discrimination is alleged to have occurred has ended. Further details about remedies and enforcement can be read in Chapter II of the directive.