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IP/10/318

Brussels, 18 March 2010

Employment equality rules: European Commission sends final warning to Portugal and closes case against Lithuania

The European Commission today stepped up legal action against Portugal for incorrectly implementing EU rules prohibiting discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in employment and occupation (Directive 2000/78/EC, see also MEMO/08/69). The Commission sent Portugal a reasoned opinion, which is the final stage before the case is referred to the European Court of Justice. At the same time, the Commission closed a case concerning the same Directive against Lithuania, which changed its national law to conform with EU requirements.

In the reasoned opinion sent to Portugal (see also IP/08/155), the Commission pointed out that:

  • National law does not expressly transpose Article 3(1) (a) of the Employment Equality Directive, which says that conditions of access to self-employment should be covered by this law.

  • Article 9 (2) of the Directive – which gives associations, organisations or other legal entities the right to engage in judicial or administrative procedures – is not correctly transposed in Portugal.

At the same time, the Commission has decided to close the infringement case against Lithuania (see also IP/08/155). The Commission considers that Lithuania, by amending its Equal Treatment Act in 2008, has properly transposed the Directive.

Background

Anti-discrimination (in areas outside gender and nationality discrimination) is a relatively new area of EU policy. Following the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999, the EU acquired new powers to combat discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, religion and belief, disability, age and sexual orientation (former Article 13 TEC, now Article 10 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [TFEU]). This led to the unanimous adoption by Member States of two Directives in 2000:

  • Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin (Racial Equality Directive). This Directive covers direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment, in the fields of employment, vocational training, education, social protection (including social security and health care), social advantages and access to goods and services (including housing).

  • Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment, occupation and vocational training (Employment Equality Directive). This Directive covers direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment, in employment and training on the grounds of religion or belief, age, disability and sexual orientation. It includes specific requirements on reasonable accommodation for disabled persons.

The deadlines for Member States to transpose these two directives were 19 July and 2 December 2003, respectively. For the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004, the deadline was 1 May 2004. For Bulgaria and Romania, it was 1 January 2007.

Further information

EU anti-discrimination legislation

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=612&langId=en

Subscribe to the Commission's free e-mail newsletter on employment, social affairs and equal opportunities

http://ec.europa.eu/social/e-newsletter


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