On 15th of July, the Court of Justice of the European Union adopted a decision in favour of an employee with disabilities who had been dismissed by his employer based on his disability in Estonia.
The case C-795/19 Tartu Vangla (ET) concerned a hard of hearing prison officer who was dismissed based on Estonian regulations that prohibited the employment of persons ‘whose hearing acuity does not meet minimum sound perception thresholds’.
In its judgment, the Court recognised that such absolute regulation, that did not provide for the possibility to check whether the employees could perform their duties, and without considering reasonable accommodation, amounted to a disability-based discrimination contrary to EU law, and in particular contrary to Directive 2000/78 on equal treatment in employment.
The European Disability Forum welcomes this judgment which recalls the obligation employers must provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities, and for the EU Member States to change their legislation so they comply with such obligation. Despite the adoption of the Directive 2000/78 by the EU, many people with disabilities continue to be discriminated against in employment. On average, solely 50.8% of persons with disabilities are employed in EU Member States, compared to 74.8% of persons without disabilities.
The European Federation of Hard of Hearing People in partnership with the Estonian Hard of Hearing Association (EVL) and the European Union of the Deaf welcome the judgment of the European Court of Justice as a major milestone in the efforts to ensure that equal rights of employees with disabilities are fully protected by the national laws of the EU Member States.
For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, such absolute regulations further disadvantage their rights to fulfil their potential and do not provide with full protection against unfair and discriminatory treatment. With the latest advances in hearing assistive technologies hard of hearing people should not be judged by medical thresholds alone without providing reasonable adjustment such as text based information , and for deaf employees, necessary reasonable accommodation measures, such as sign language interpretation and other measures must always be ensured so everyone can enjoy their right to work.
- Case C-795/19 Tartu Vangla (ET) (available in French and other EU languages)
- European Parliament’s, Report on the implementation of Council Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation in light of the UNCRPD
- EDF Human Rights Report on Equality and Non-Discrimination
- Our work on employment policy