Here you can find explanations of some basic notions of non-discrimination law and on which grounds and in which areas of life discrimination is prohibited in the Republic of Croatia.
What is discrimination?
Most simply put, discrimination is an unjustified and prohibited difference in treatment on the basis of certain characteristics listed in the Anti-discrimination Act (for instance race or ethnic origin or skin colour, sex, language, religion; other grounds are listed in the following passages).
The Act foresees exceptions which, although they may have elements of discrimination, do not represent discrimination (for instance, when hiring a pilot it is acceptable to include a certain age limit).
What forms of discrimination are there?
Discriminatory treatment or forms of discrimination according to the Anti-discrimination Act are:
• direct discrimination
• indirect discrimination
• sexual harassment
• instruction to discriminate
• failure to make reasonable accommodation
To constitute discrimination there needs to be a link between such treatment and one of the discrimination grounds which are listed in the Act. For example, there will be discrimination if someone is harassed at their workplace as an older person or for being female.
Differential treatment on which discrimination grounds is prohibited?
Discrimination grounds listed in the Anti-discrimination Act are:
• race or ethnic affiliation or colour
• political or other belief
• national or social origin
• property status
• trade union membership
• social status
• marital or family status
• health status
• genetic heritage
• gender identity and expression
• sexual orientation
What is direct discrimination?
Direct discrimination is treatment based on one of the listed grounds whereby a person is, has been, or could be placed in a less favourable position than other persons in a comparable situation.
An example of direct discrimination would be a sign on the door of a restaurant „We do not serve Roma“. However, in reality discrimination takes on more subtle shapes. That is why indirect discrimination is also prohibited.
What is indirect discrimination?
Indirect discrimination shall be taken to occur when an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice places or could place a person in a less favourable position on one of the listed grounds, in relation to other persons in a comparable situation, unless such a provision, criterion or practice may be objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
Colourfully put, indirect discrimination is if one gives a stork and a fox to drink from the same tall glasses, since we are treating them apparently neutrally. However the effect is much different for the fox, who will stay thirsty with such equal treatment.
What is the difference between harassment and sexual harassment?
According to the Anti-discrimination Act, harassment is any unwanted conduct caused by any of the listed grounds with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment. An example of harassment would be worker of a ethnic origin other than the rest of the workers being exposed to degrading environment in which every morning there is a message in relation to his origin waiting on his work desk. Harassment based on sex would for instance be the harassment of an only woman in an all male workplace.
Sexual harassment is any verbal, non-verbal or physical unwanted conduct of sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment. Sexual harassment is not the above described harassment based on one’s sex, but is conduct of a sexual nature, including sexual remarks etc.
What is the difference between harassment and 'mobbing'?
'Mobbing’ is a wider term than harassment, hence only in some instances will 'mobbing' be discrimination and therefore under the scope of the Anti-discrimination Act. 'Mobbing' is a phenomenon of abuse at the workplace, with the key difference in relation to harassment as described in the Anti-discrimination Act being that for 'mobbing' to exist there does not have to be a link to a discrimination ground. The abused worker is exposed to offensive behaviour not based on his or her age, sex, national origin etc., but, for instance, as the last person to join an established work environment.
Whose acts can be discriminatory?
Acts and behaviour of all state bodies can be discriminatory (like for instance ministries), of bodies of local and regional self-government units and of legal persons vested with public authority (like schools, hospitals etc.). Acts and behaviour of all legal persons can also be discriminatory (like for instance companies),but also of all natural/physical persons. The state can also discriminate its citizens by enacting laws (a classical example are racial laws from the Second World War).
In which areas of life is discrimination prohibited in the Republic of Croatia?
Discrimination is prohibited especially in the following areas:
1. work and working conditions; access to self-employment and occupation, including selection criteria, recruiting and promotion conditions; access to all types of vocational guidance, vocational training, professional improvement and retraining;
2. education, science and sports;
3. social security, including social welfare, pension and health insurance and unemployment insurance;
4. health protection;
5. judiciary and administration;
7. public informing and the media;
8. access to goods and services and their providing;
9. membership and activities in trade unions, civil society organisations, political parties or any other organisations;
10. access to participation in the cultural and artistic creation.
As these are the areas where discrimination is 'especially' prohibited, it is also prohibited in other areas of life, but it will be up to the courts to determine to which other areas the Act applies to.