Landmark ruling on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation


Forty-three year old Lech Sydor from eastern Moravia was promised a job as a masseur in a rehabilitation centre. When the centre's management found out that he was gay, it refused to employ him. Mr Sydor took his case to court and won. As Dita Asiedu reports, this is a landmark case in the Czech Republic where a court has never before ruled on a sexual orientation discrimination case:

Seventy thousand crowns in damages - around 3,200 US dollars - and an apology. That's what Lech Sydor, who is now a manual labourer in a private company has been awarded. One of the reasons why Mr Sydor had the courage to take his case to court was that the company that refused to employ him did not even try to hide the reason why:

"When I spoke to the director, he looked me straight in the eye and told me that he cannot afford to employ me because I am gay."

In court, the Beskydy Rehabilitation Centre claimed someone who was better qualified had applied for the job. But after the ruling, its spokesperson Tomas Zelazko admitted that the centre feared that its clients would react negatively to a gay masseur:

"We have employees who are of a different sexual orientation but they work in places where the elderly for example wouldn't be bothered. We object to the fact that we are not permitted to ask during job interviews whether the applicant drinks alcohol or takes drugs or what his sexual orientation is."

Though Mr Sydor was the first to go to court, gay and lesbian organisations say he is not the only one to have been rejected by employers on the grounds of sexual preference. Tereza Kodickova of the Gay and Lesbian League welcomes the court ruling and hopes Mr Sydor's act of bravery will set a precedent:

"Firstly, we are very happy that the justice understood that our sexual orientation is a cause of discrimination and secondly, we are very happy that someone has finally found the strength to come out and publicly ask our state to say that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is wrong. We do hope that in the future more people will find the courage to come out so that the discrimination will become visible and will be reduced."

Although Mr Sydor won his case in court he plans to take it a step further. If the Labour Office also finds the rehabilitation centre guilty of discrimination, it can grant a fine of up to one million crowns.