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Discrimination against protected parents was not child's play

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Legal news
calendar 19 March 2023
globus Sweden

In January, the Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) found that three different companies discriminated against their female employees in connection with pregnancy or parental leave. In all decisions, the DO ordered the companies to pay compensation to the employees. However, in two of the cases, the companies refused, and the cases are now pending before the Labour court.

The Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) recently issued three decisions where employees were discriminated against in connection with pregnancy or parental leave.

In the first decision, a cleaner asked for reduced working hours due to her pregnancy. After some time, she went on sick leave due to issues related to the pregnancy, and the company terminated her probationary employment.

In the second decision, a manager at a repair shop lost her position to a colleague when she returned from parental leave. The company instead offered her another position and threatened her with termination if she did not accept.

In the third decision, another cleaner’s probationary employment was interrupted after she was absent from work due to childcare leave. She was informed that her partner should have taken care of the child instead of her. The company terminated her shortly after.

One parent discriminated, two parents unfavourably treated

In the first decision, the DO found that the termination of the pregnant employee was unlawful under the Swedish Discrimination Act. According to the DO, the probationary employment was terminated for reasons related to the employee’s pregnancy. Therefore, the employee had been discriminated against based on her gender.  

In the other two decisions, the DO decided that the reassignment and termination were unlawful. The DO relied on the Swedish Parental Leave Act. The Parental Leave Act protects employees from being unfavourably treated because they make use of their right to parental leave. The rules also entitle employees to resume their work after taking parental leave. In both cases, the companies were unable to prove that the decisions were not related to parental leave.

IUNO’s opinion

Companies must take careful steps when taking decisions that affect protected employees. Employees can be protected against discrimination under the Swedish Discrimination Act, for example, because of gender, transgender identity, religion, or disability. Employees can also be protected against unfavourable treatment under the Parental Leave Act following leave in connection with childcare, adoption, and other circumstances.

IUNO recommends that companies take protected groups into consideration when taking decisions affecting employment terms and conditions. Interruption of probationary employment, reassignment, and termination are all examples of decisions that may otherwise result in substantial claims for compensation. We have previously written about anti-discrimination measures in the workplace here, and the new work-balance rules for parents, here.

Two of the decisions from the DO are now pending before the Labour Court. IUNO is following the development closely. 

[The Discrimination Ombudsman decisions of 23 January 2023 in case DO 2022/3202, 27 January 2023 in case DO 2023/535, 28 February 2023 in case DO 2022/4445]

The Swedish Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) recently issued three decisions where employees were discriminated against in connection with pregnancy or parental leave.

In the first decision, a cleaner asked for reduced working hours due to her pregnancy. After some time, she went on sick leave due to issues related to the pregnancy, and the company terminated her probationary employment.

In the second decision, a manager at a repair shop lost her position to a colleague when she returned from parental leave. The company instead offered her another position and threatened her with termination if she did not accept.

In the third decision, another cleaner’s probationary employment was interrupted after she was absent from work due to childcare leave. She was informed that her partner should have taken care of the child instead of her. The company terminated her shortly after.

One parent discriminated, two parents unfavourably treated

In the first decision, the DO found that the termination of the pregnant employee was unlawful under the Swedish Discrimination Act. According to the DO, the probationary employment was terminated for reasons related to the employee’s pregnancy. Therefore, the employee had been discriminated against based on her gender.  

In the other two decisions, the DO decided that the reassignment and termination were unlawful. The DO relied on the Swedish Parental Leave Act. The Parental Leave Act protects employees from being unfavourably treated because they make use of their right to parental leave. The rules also entitle employees to resume their work after taking parental leave. In both cases, the companies were unable to prove that the decisions were not related to parental leave.

IUNO’s opinion

Companies must take careful steps when taking decisions that affect protected employees. Employees can be protected against discrimination under the Swedish Discrimination Act, for example, because of gender, transgender identity, religion, or disability. Employees can also be protected against unfavourable treatment under the Parental Leave Act following leave in connection with childcare, adoption, and other circumstances.

IUNO recommends that companies take protected groups into consideration when taking decisions affecting employment terms and conditions. Interruption of probationary employment, reassignment, and termination are all examples of decisions that may otherwise result in substantial claims for compensation. We have previously written about anti-discrimination measures in the workplace here, and the new work-balance rules for parents, here.

Two of the decisions from the DO are now pending before the Labour Court. IUNO is following the development closely. 

[The Discrimination Ombudsman decisions of 23 January 2023 in case DO 2022/3202, 27 January 2023 in case DO 2023/535, 28 February 2023 in case DO 2022/4445]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

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