Discrimination against Roma in Access to Employment in Czech Republic
29 October 2003
Ms Marcela Zupková, a 30-year-old Romani woman from Hradec Králové in northeastern Czech Republic, was denied employment at AKYMA, a local company seeking to hire unskilled sales workers, on the basis of her ethnicity, according to the local daily newspaper Hradecké Noviny/Deníký Bohemia of January 24, 2003. The local Employment Office had sent Ms Zupková to AKYMA, but when she arrived, Ms Eva Panochová, a representative of AKYMA, informed her that there was no work for her because the company does not employ Roma, according to Ms Zupková's statement in the daily. Ms Panochová went so far as to write "Romani origin" as the reason for refusal on a form for the Employment Office and told Ms Zupková that customers would have a problem with the company if it employed Roma. In a statement to the daily, Ms Panochová said that after working for long enough to gain access to social benefits, most Roma quit their jobs.
According to the daily, Ms Maria Paclíková, head of the Employment Office's Mediation Department, was fully supportive of Ms Zupková, stating that the decision of AKYMA to not employ her was discriminatory. On January 30, 2003, the Czech national daily newspaper Mladá Fronta Dnes (MFDnes) reported that the Employment Office had initiated an administrative procedure against AKYMA, with a maximum fine for discrimination being 250,000 Czech crowns (approximately 7,900 Euro). Also according to MFDnes, an attorney for Ms Panochová presented a different version of events, stating that she had mistakenly written "Romani origin" as the reason for refusal due to stress and pressure from Ms Zupková.
On February 23, 2003, Ms Zupková informed the ERRC that she had filed a criminal complaint against AKYMA for defamation. On March 25, 2003, the Czech State television station ČT 1 reported that the Czech police had closed their investigation in the case, finding that Ms Panochová had not committed the criminal act of publicly defaming Ms Zupková, but found that a summary offense had been committed. The case was reportedly passed to the Hradec Králové Town Office, which will decide the amount of the fine that Ms Panochová must pay Ms Zupková. On May 23, 2003, attorney David Strupek, with the support of the Prague-based non-governmental organisation Councelling Center for Citizenship/Civil and Human Rights (Poradna), filed a civil complaint with the Hradec Králové Regional Court on behalf of Ms Zupková. In the complaint, filed against Ms Marie Rehaková - the owner of AKYMA - Ms Zupková requests a public apology and 250,000 Czech crowns (approximately 7,750 Euro) in non-pecuniary damages for racial discrimination and defamation.
(ERRC, Hradecké Noviny/Deníký Bohemia, MFDnes)