Court Awards Romani Victim Full Compensation for Discrimination by Employer

On 16 November 2005, with ERRC support, a young Romani man won a judgment by the Sofia District Court, finding that the refusal of a private business to hire him constituted direct discrimination based on his ethnicity. The court has awarded Mr Metody Assenov the full amount of compensation he sought for non-pecuniary damages -- the approximate equivalent in Bulgarian Leva of 300 EUR. The ruling, which is based on Bulgaria's Protection Against Discrimination Act, is the first to find discrimination by inference, in accordance with the special rule of the shifting of the burden of proof in discrimination cases.

In December 2003, the claimant, 22 year old Mr Metody Assenov, sought to apply for a job as a food production worker with the respondent, Lubimka Ltd. In response to a job advertisement in a newspaper, he placed a telephone call to Lubimka Ltd. to inquire about the terms and conditions for applying. An employee told him that there was no requirement other than to be a male below the age of 30. She also told him, explicitly, that no Roma need apply as no Roma would be hired. In February 2004, the job advertisement reappeared and Mr Assenov called again, making no mention of his ethnicity. He was invited for an interview, at which the employees of Lubimka Ltd. treated him less favourably than other job applicants present by trying to ignore him and by discouraging him from expecting to be hired. Several weeks later, upon inquiry, he was told that he had not been hired. He was not offered any explanation of the reason for the refusal.

In court, representatives of Lubimka Ltd. argued that their refusal to hire Mr. Assenov was not race-based, but for a legitimate reason; namely, the claimant's lack of proper qualifications. The court did not consider this sufficiently established as there was no evidence that Mr Assenov had lesser qualifications than the applicants who had been hired. The court found that there was enough circumstantial evidence to point to a causal link between Mr Assenov's ethnicity and Lubimka Ltd.'s refusal to hire him. The court's reasoning includes express language on the principle of the shifting of the burden of proof in discrimination cases, in line with established case law in the European Union.

(ERRC)

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