Discrimination in the workplace: protection measures   

The Protection Against Discrimination Act (PADA) establishes a set of obligations for employers with respect to the creation of a non-discriminatory environment in the workplace.

1. Measures to prevent discrimination in the workplace

Employers, in cooperation with trade unions, are obliged to take effective measures to prevent all forms of discrimination in the workplace. The measures provided by PADA in this regard include:

► ensuring equal working conditions

► equal remuneration for equal or equivalent work

► equal opportunities for vocational training and upgrading of professional qualification, as well as for retraining

► application of equal criteria when imposing disciplinary sanctions

The fulfilment of each of these specific obligations is a prerequisite for the prevention of all forms of discrimination in the workplace. In addition, employers are obliged to take a number of actions:   

► to adapt the workplace to the needs of employee(s) with disabilities, unless such adaptation is too burdensome for them in terms of logistics and costs  

► to display in an accessible place in the workplace the text of the Protection Against Discrimination Act, as well as all provisions of the internal rules and of collective labour agreement clauses related to the protection against discrimination

The social dialogue (conducting consultations with employee representatives) is a means for the full implementation of employer obligations both under the Bulgarian labour legislation and the PADA. Additional measures may include conducting training among staff members, periodic surveys among employees and conducting an assessment of the psychological climate and the team’s attitudes on specific issues.

Provisions of anti-discriminatory nature may be included in the internal regulations of employers (Internal work rules, Code of Conduct, etc.). The Protection Against Discrimination Act explicitly stipulates that the texts related to the protection against discrimination should be prominently displayed in the respective workplace and accessible to all staff.

2. Measures for active protection

PADA introduces an obligation for employers to actively intervene when there is discrimination among their staff. In case an employer fails to do so, there is a risk of non-fulfilment of their obligations under the PADA when it comes to creating a non-discriminatory work environment and of taking effective measures for the prevention of all forms of discrimination in the workplace.

Employers are obliged to consider any signal for a violation of the anti-discrimination legislation and to assess whether the respective situation represents a discriminatory act.

If the signal actually contains data about a discriminatory act, employers must establish the factual situation - e.g. to request explanations from the person accused of discrimination and from other members of the team. This conclusion follows directly from the provision of Article 17 PADA, in accordance with which employers are obliged to impose disciplinary liability on the employee, who exercises or has exercised harassment.

If the complaint (signal) is confirmed as accurate, the PADA provides for employers to take measures in order to cease the harassment and impose disciplinary liability. Special attention should be paid to this rule, insofar as the Bulgarian labour legislation does not provide for the mandatory imposition of a disciplinary sanction when labour discipline has been infringed. In principle, employers may consider that the breach is minor and that no negative consequences will occur for the offending employee. However, when a violation of the Protection Against Discrimination Act is revealed and in particular, when there is an act of harassment, the offending party must be subject to one of the disciplinary sanctions laid out in the Labor Code: reprimand, warning of dismissal or disciplinary dismissal.