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Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law, 1988
This law forms the main legal basis for prohibiting discrimination in the workplace, both in the public and private spheres:
"Employers shall not discriminate between their employees or between candidates for employment because of their sexual orientation, because they are parents, because of their age, race, religion, nationality, land of origin, opinion or party, in any of the following:
- working conditions;
- professional training or studies;
- discharge or severance pay;
- benefits and payments provided for employees in connection with their retirement from employment.
"For the purposes of subsection (a), setting extraneous conditions is also deemed to constitute discrimination."
"Anything required by the character or substance of the position or job shall not be deemed discriminatory."
The Law further provides that, under certain conditions, provisions in an enactment, collective agreement or employment contract made in connection with maternity are not be considered discriminatory. It also provides that any rights given to working mothers are to be given equally to working fathers, under certain conditions.
Protection from sexual harassment is addressed in section 7, which states that an employer shall not "act against" an employee who rejects, or opposes, any act of a sexual nature committed by the employer or by the supervisor of the employee.
Violation of the law constitutes both a civil and criminal offence, and courts may grant compensation even when no material damage was caused. In addition, civil proceedings can be initiated by an employee, an employee organization or civil rights group, with special protection granted to the worker filing the complaint.
The Minister is responsible for implementation of the Law. To this end, the Minister is mandated to appoint inspectors to supervise implementation and a public council - comprised of government, employer, employee and public representatives - to advise and assist in promoting the Law.
An employer is not allowed to demand the army profile of any applicant or candidate
There may be certain exceptions in which discrimination of a sort may be permitted.
a) In relation to women, the most important of these are 'genuine' occupational qualifications, which include:
- Reasons of physiology (not physical strength)
- Reasons of decency or privacy
- Special welfare consideration
- The provision of personal services promoting welfare or education; and Jobs affected by legal/religious restrictions, particularly jobs in countries like in the Middle East where laws or customs are such that the duties could not, or could not effectively, be performed by a women
b) In the case of ethnic minorities the exceptions are:
- Dramatic performances, where the dramatis personae requires a person of a particular racial group.
- Artists or models for advertising purposes, for reasons of authenticity
- Where services are rendered for the welfare of the particular group
Whilst there is no fixed number or percentage of jobs that must be filled by women or members of ethnic or other specific criteria, organizations may within the context of the legal framework set themselves targets for the number of persons they will aim to employ if the required number of eligible and suitably qualified people can be recruited as part of an equality action plan.
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