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Can an employer treat a person less favourably because of the disability of the person’s close relative (e.g. child, parent)?

No. It’s not permitted to treat an employee less favourably, also upon recruitment, because of the performance of the duty to care for a family member.

In general, the prohibition of direct discrimination protects the person who has a characteristic mentioned in law. However, interpretations of EU law have found that Member States should also protect people who are related to a disabled person through family or other relationships, for example if an employee has a disabled child, from discrimination on the grounds of disability.

The European Court of Justice held in its judgment in Case C-303/06 Coleman v Attridge Law and Steve Law that the scope of the prohibition of discrimination in relation to disability is not limited to people who themselves have the respective characteristic. Discrimination can also occur where a person does not have any of the characteristics related to discrimination themselves, but they are treated less favourably because of their close association with a person who has the respective characteristic.

Therefore, if it turns out that a job applicant has a disabled child and is therefore overlooked upon recruitment, training or promotion, this is a case of multiple discrimination. In this case, discrimination occurs on the grounds of the performance of family obligations as well as on the grounds of disability (clause 3 (1) 3) and clause 6 (2) 1) of the Gender Equality Act, clause 2 (2) 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.