• 2014/09/24

Discrimination in advertised vacancies

Discrimination in advertised vacancies

efhr_ofertaMuch of the time, it seems that we give very little thought to vacancy notices on the internet or in the press which are discriminatory on the grounds of nationality, gender, family or social situation, religion, language or political convictions. In its annual report to the European Network against Racism, the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights announced that in Lithuania’s labour market in 2012-2013 43% of people from  non-traditional religious groups in Lithuania experienced discrimination in their workplace and 43,8% of individuals belonging to national minority groups felt discriminated against by their employers regarding career prospects.

The most recurrent form of discrimination in vacancy notices is sexism. Such adverts as “job for two women in a carwash for trucks”, “job for a communicative girl”, “pizza chefs (woman) needed” make us think that men and women are unequal when it comes to performing certain tasks, with this unlawfully limiting their employability. Furthermore, some of the adverts contain discrimination based on marital status since notices indicate requirements related to an individual’s marital status, if he/she has or does not have children, diminishing people’s chances to achieve employment. Into the same category fall requirements indicating one’s age, for instance, “we are looking to hire an education manager assistant, not younger than 24 years old” or “required clothing seller, not younger than 30 years old”. These and similar vacancy announcements undervalue the youth, suggesting that they could not fulfill certain requirements because of their age.

The Law and Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania provides equal rights to all citizens of Lithuania despite their gender, race, nationality, social background, faith and convictions. Moreover, Article 14 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms affirms a general ban on discrimination. The principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in the Lithuanian Republic regulates that in vacancy notices to work in the national civil service or studying environment it is forbidden to establish requirements giving priority to one of the genders, demand information about the individual’s marital status, age (except by virtue of provisions laid down by law), private life or family plans. However, a lot of the times vacancy notices breach the law because they give priority to certain qualities of potential workers, the most common is age limit, for example, looking for “a nice girl under 30”.

Non-governmental organizations are the most important players protecting human rights and diminishing discrimination because they disseminate information and offer their help to people. The European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) observes the internet space and appeals against those discriminatory vacancy announcements for the purpose of prosecution. Usually, EFHR seeks to impose a maximum fine of 2000 LT for the infringement of law of equal opportunities. To expand, the European Foundation has made over 30 complaints. However, only 14 vacancy notices were acknowledged to be unlawful, and some of their authors were merely warned. Notwithstanding, EFHR assures all that there are less and less notices contradicting Lithuanian law. Furthermore, the European Foundation of Human Rights offers legal advice for individuals suffering from discrimination at work and seeking employment free of charge.

According to the Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights Data, Lithuanian society is homogenous in a sense that migrants, refugees and asylum applicants constitute less than 1% of the whole labour market. However, national minorities constitute almost 16% of society. Therefore, Lithuanian society does not consider discrimination based on nationality to be a big issue since the majority of citizens are not discriminated against and do not expect to be discriminated against on these grounds. Dr. Vilana Pilinkaite, an ethnic research scientist and an expert from the Centre for Equal Opportunities, says that only those who have experienced discrimination are able to understand its complexity. Even more, some of the citizens have only heard about such cases on the news. Commonly, the most important sources of information are non-governmental organizations because they interact with people from different communities on a daily basis, whereas official institutions are not inclined to make these problems public.

Although authors of discriminatory vacancy notices normally claim that they did not perfectly know the Lithuanian law related to equal opportunities, just by removing such notices the problem does not disappear. There is no official data on a concept of discrimination in society but it is evident that primarily it emerges from well-established false images of gender roles, differences among nationalities and so on. People have to understand that as long as stereotypical perceptions prevail in our society, we will confront violations of the principle of equal opportunities. Even employers, not because they intend to discriminate against one particular group of people, but because of existing stereotypes, generate situations where some people are evaluated better than others depending on their gender, age, nationality, religion, despite there not being a proper reason for it. Additionally, cases of discrimination in the labour market do not normally reach courts because people are not informed of their rights well enough and do not know where to go if they need advice.

To conclude, it is important to educate our children and familiarize them and other citizens with problems arising in labour markets concerning the principle of equal opportunity. In other words, we should all strive to ensure we become a part of a new, responsible generation. However, this process is a lengthy one. What is more, the European Foundation of Human Rights encourages everyone to pay attention to discriminatory vacancy announcements and immediately inform us about them.


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