Chamber of Deputies pushes through sexual harassment amendment

A new amendment to the Czech Republic's Labour Code on sexual harassment was passed on Wednesday, when the Chamber of Deputies overruled the Senate's rejection of the bill. The amendment clarifies what sexual harassment is, and brings Czech law into line with that of the European Union. I discussed the issue with Alena Kralikova of the Gender Studies NGO in Prague.

"The issue of sexual harassment was already included in the labour code since January 1st, 2001. The term "sexual harassment" however was not used and lawyers and lawmakers had trouble finding an appropriate definition. A director from the EU had also asked for a concrete definition to be formed."

When the senate did not want a clear definition of the term, they had fears that there would be a wave of accusations and lawsuits in the Czech Republic. Do you really think this is feasible? Is there is going to be an Armageddon of sexual harassment cases in the Czech Republic?

"Of course not. As I said before the issue of sexual harassment was already introduced in 2001. People who would have needed or wanted to use it already would have. So I don't think there will be major changes between employees and employers to this issue."

But what Ms. Kralikova greatly appreciates, is that the new amendment clearly defines direct and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination is quite obvious. For example, if someone for simply the reason of gender is not hired in a position. But what is more clearly defined is indirect discrimination- discrimination that can be more hidden within companies.

"For example indirect discrimination can occur in the way employers provide training or organize meetings. If they give meetings at 5:00 in the afternoon, it is of course not a conducive for parents who will in the end not be able to take part in them. For the most part in Czech society it is the woman who is expected to care for the children. So when the employer doesn't recognize that their employee has other roles, the parent cannot take part in the company fully."