Laws protect people from unequal treatment caused or motivated by a person’s characteristics, such as gender, age, nationality, skin colour, sexual orientation, beliefs, etc. The list of characteristics can be found in the Gender Equality Act (subsection 1 (1), clause 3 (1) 3) and the Equal Treatment Act (section 1, subsection 2 (3)). But what does the term direct discrimination or direct unequal treatment mean?
Direct discrimination is when one person is treated less favourably than others in a similar situation due to any of the above characteristics (clause 3 (1) 3) of the Gender Equality Act, subsection 3 (2) of the Equal Treatment Act). Unequal treatment can take many forms, such as unequal treatment in the workplace when the employer makes derogatory comments about age or parenthood.
It is important to understand that equal treatment does not mean that everyone should be treated equally, but that it is important to give people opportunities according to their needs and to treat them in an appropriate way. For example, an employer cannot impose the same conditions and requirements on a person with special needs as on a person without health problems. The nature and needs of the individual must be considered. Nor can an employer claim, for example, that older employees have a slower development speed than younger people, because each person is different in terms of their development ability, nature and physicality.
Direct discrimination, i.e. direct unequal treatment, is prohibited by law and is not accepted in Estonia, so if you notice unequal treatment, steps must be taken to put an immediate end to it. For example, raising awareness can help, as many people are unaware of their discriminatory behaviour based on outdated perceptions and stereotypes. However, if discrimination is intentional, it must be reported to an appropriate body, such as the Labour Inspectorate or the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner.
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 email@example.com or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.