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Can an applicant who has the required experience and skills be overlooked at recruitment because the employer believes they would not fit in the team because they are different from other employees?

No. It is direct gender-based discrimination if an applicant is overlooked solely because of their sex (subsections 5 (1) and 6 (1) of the Gender Equality Act).

For example, if a school has an all-female teaching staff, a man applying to become a teacher should not be overlooked on the grounds that he would probably be uncomfortable in an all-female collective.

Similarly, an applicant with the necessary qualifications and experience may not be overlooked solely because they differ from the existing employees on the grounds of race, nationality, age, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation or disability (subsection 1 (1) of the Equal Treatment Act).

If an employer is worried that a colleague of a different gender, colour, nationality or age may feel uncomfortable in the workplace, they should analyse what is causing the concern. Is the employer’s previous experience the reason? Or is the employer’s fear caused by their own prejudices? The focus should then be on ensuring that different employees feel comfortable in the workplace, that different needs are taken into account and that employees are protected from harassment.

Subsection 1 (1) and § 5 of the Gender Equality Act
Subsection 1 (1) of the Equal Treatment Act

This explanation does not constitute legal aid in a specific case. Therefore, if you feel that you have been treated unequally, but you did not find a solution to your problem in this article, or if you have a question, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at avaldus@volinik.ee or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.