Discrimination in working life

Discrimination - Alasivu

Discrimination is prohibited in hiring, during the employment relationship and in terminating the employment relationship. The employer may be guilty of discrimination before actual recruitment in setting selection criteria or in job information.

What does discrimination mean?

According to the Non-Discrimination Act, an employer may not place an employee in a different position on grounds of age, origin, nationality, language, religion, belief, opinion, political activity, trade union activity, family relationships, state of health, disability, sexual orientation or any other personal characteristics. Any other personal chracteristics refers to reasons such as those specifically mentioned. Such other reasons may include, for example, residence, wealth, social status or participation in association activities.

Mistreatment of an employee is not always discrimination. Discrimination refers to the fact that an employee or job seeker has been treated worse than others precisely because of one of the characteristics referred to in the Non-Discrimination Law. For example, prohibited discrimination may exist if the employer dismisses an employee on the basis of their age or refuses to hire a person on the basis of their ethnic origin.

Discrimination may be

  • direct, meaning that a person, on the grounds of personal characteristics, is treated less favourably than another was treated, is treated or would be treated in a comparable situation. For example, a foreign employee being paid less than a Finnish employee.
  • indirect, meaning that an apparently neutral rule, criterion or practice puts a person at a disadvantage compared with others on the grounds of personal characteristics. For example, perfect command of Finnish is required at the hiring stage even if it is not essential for performing the work in question.
  • harassment, meaning the deliberate or de facto infringement of the dignity of a person, which creates a threatening, hostile, degrading and offensive atmosphere. For example, offensive racist jokes at the workplace or name-calling sexual minorities are harassment. For the employer not to take action to address such harassment at the workplace is considered discrimination.
  • denial of reasonable accommodation, meaning that the employer refuses to make reasonable adjustments required for a disabled person to gain employment, perform their job duties and advance in their career equally with others.
  • an instruction or order to discriminate against particular persons. For example, an employer prohibiting an employee to hire a person belonging to a particular ethnic group.

No retaliation shall be taken against the person reporting discrimination

The employee must not have negative consequences because they have invoked the rights referred to in the Non-Discrimination Act, obligations, participated in the investigation of discrimination at the workplace or taken other measures to safeguard equality. This is called a countermeasure ban. The countermeasure is, for example, if the employer tightens the supervision of the employee's performance after the employee contacts the occupational safety and health authority due to discrimination experience.

What is not considered discrimination under the Non-Discrimination Act?

Discrimination does not exist if the job seeker or employee is not associated with any of the grounds of discrimination referred to in the Act or has in no way affected the employer's activities.

Differences in treatment in working life related to the grounds of discrimination may also be justified if the treatment is based on actual requirements for work tasks. However, the treatment must be proportionate to the aim pursued and the aim must be acceptable.

In addition, differences in treatment on grounds of age or residence shall be justified where such treatment has a duly justified aim of employment policy or the labour market, or if the difference in treatment is due to age limits established as a condition for receiving pension or invalidity benefits.

Moreover, discrimination is not a different treatment in a suitable proportion to the aim pursued, with the aim of promoting effective equality or preventing and eliminating harm caused by discrimination. For example, positive special treatment for persons deemed to be in need of special protection due to their origin, age or partial work capacity is permitted. However, measures relating to such positive special treatment must be proportionate to the aim.

Examples of situations where different treatment may be acceptable:

  • A worker may be required to have a certain religious belief in cases where the worker is involved in the required conviction at work or represents religious beliefs outwardly.
  • Termination of employment on the basis of the employee's state of health may be justified if the illness has caused a significant deterioration in working capacity and the deterioration cannot be considered temporary or transient.
  • A municipality as an employer can only offer summer jobs to young people of its own municipality.
  • Employment campaigns to prevent exclusion of young people from the labour market may include legitimate different treatment on the basis of age.

Discrimination - työntekijälle

 

Instructions for employee


If you suspect that you have been discriminated against in working life, do the following:

1. Discuss the procedure you have experienced as discrimination with your employer and ask for justification. In the case of harassment, ask the employer to intervene. Requests to the employer should be submitted in writing so that you can prove that you have raised the matter with the employer afterwards if necessary.

2. You can also discuss the matter with the occupational safety representative or workers' representative at the workplace.

3. If, after discussions with the employer, you still suspect that you have been discriminated against on one of the grounds of discrimination referred to in the Non-Discrimination Act, or if you cannot clarify the matter with your employer, you can contact the Nationwide Telephone Service of the occupational safety and health authorities. Our telephone service can be called confidentially and without needing to mention the name. 

If necessary, you can get instructions and advice in our telephone service on how to deal with the matter at the workplace. In the telephone service, it is possible to discuss with an inspector who is familiar with discrimination whether there may be a case discrimination. If necessary, you will be given instructions on how to bring the matter to the occupational safety and health authority. 

4. Act quickly because your discrimination case may expire.

5. Be prepared to tell us the following when contacting our telephone service:

  • What employer's actions or omissions do you consider discrimination?
  • On what grounds of discrimination are you considered to have been discriminated against?
  • Has the employer been aware of the grounds of discrimination related to you before making a decision about you?
  • Why do you think your employer has discriminated against you on these grounds?
  • How has the employer justified what you consider to be discrimination?   

The Occupational Safety and Health Authority monitors compliance with the prohibition of discrimination in working life. However, the Non-Discrimination representative may, at their discretion, assist persons who have been victims of discrimination in the investigation of complaints of discrimination made by them. 

The occupational safety and health authority does not have the competence to pursue or assist in compensation cases. To bring a possible claim for compensation, you should contact your own union or a lawyer who knows labour law.

Discrimination - työnantajalle

 

Instructions for employer

Discrimination

1. If an employee or job seeker requests an explanation of the events or acts considered to be discrimination, determine the situation reported as discrimination impartially.

2. Based on the investigation, draw conclusions about the nature of the situation.

3. Talk to the employee or job seeker who submitted the report and justify your conclusions and decisions to them. It is also advisable to provide them with a written explanation.

Harassment

1. When an employee has informed the employer that they have been harassed at work, the employer is obliged to take action to eliminate the harassment by the means available.

2. If the workplace has agreed on the procedures for handling a harassment case, follow them.

3. Consult the parties involved and find out the course of events impartially.

4. After the investigation, draw conclusions and take the steps that need to be taken to resolve the situation.

5. If you consider this to be a case of prohibited harassment, you should stop the harassment by the means available.

6. Tell the notifying employee the conclusions and solutions with the reasonings.

7. It is recommended that the conclusions, instructions given and any provisions be recorded.

Discrimination - Muualla Tyosuojelu.fissä

Discrimination - Muualla verkossa

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