No discrimination against pregnant women at work

In the case of Napotnik v. Romania (application no. 33139/13, 20.10.2020) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 12 (general prohibition of discrimination) to the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The case concerned a diplomats allegation that she had been recalled from her post in the Romanian Embassy in Ljubljana because she was pregnant. The applicant was in charge of consular duties: her work mainly consisted in helping Romanian nationals who found themselves in emergency situations, such as police detention, without identity papers, or hospitalised.

The Court found that the applicant had been treated differently on grounds of sex, but that the domestic authorities had sufficiently justified such difference in treatment. In the Courts view, the domestic authorities had provided relevant reasons to justify the termination of her posting abroad. Indeed, the decision had been necessary to ensure and maintain the functional capacity of the embassys consular section, and ultimately to protect the rights of others, namely Romanians in need of assistance abroad. 

Bearing in mind the nature of the applicants work and the urgency of the requests she had been called upon to deal with, her absence from the office could jeopardise consular services in the embassy. That had been clearly demonstrated when such services had had to be suspended and requests for assistance redirected to neighbouring countries for a certain period during her first pregnancy. 

In any case, the consequences of the decision had not caused the applicant any significant setbacks. She had not been dismissed, a decision which would have been expressly prohibited by the domestic equal opportunity laws and in contravention of Romanias international commitments. Nor, as expressly reiterated by the domestic courts, had the decision been a disciplinary measure. She had in fact continued to be promoted by her employer, first in December 2007 while she had been absent during her first pregnancy, and again in September 2016, about a year after her return to work. Accordingly, the Court held that there had been no violation of Article 1 of Protocol No. 12.

References from the official website of the European Court of Human Rights