Women and Justice: Keywords


Employment (Amendment) Act of 2010 (2010)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Sections 113-118 of the Employment (Amendment) Act pertain to the rights of women to maternity leave from their employers. The amendment compels employers to pay employees on maternity leave not less than 50% of their salary, establishes the right to maternity allowance unaffected by notice of termination of contract of employment, and prohibits serving notice of termination of contract of employment during maternity leave. It establishes in Section 117 that female employees are entitled to only one maternity allowance per woman. Section 118 mandates that an employer permit a female employee for a half hour twice a day to “suckle her child or otherwise feed him herself” for “six months immediately after her return to work.”

Lei do Trabalho: Lei nº 27/2007 (Labor Act) (2007)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The law governs rights associated with labor. The law grants women the right to a 60-day paid maternity leave. In contrast, fathers receive a one-day paternity leave on the day immediately following the birth of the child. The law also provides that mothers have the right to up to 30 absences from work per year in order to care for minor children who are either sick or have suffered an accident.

Mutterschutzgesetz (Maternity Protection Act) (1979)

Abortion and reproductive health rights, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Pregnant employees are prohibited from working during the eight-week period prior to giving birth and the eight-week period after giving birth. During this period, the mother is entitled to receive maternity pay, which is calculated as the employee’s average earnings during the 13 weeks prior to the prohibition of work. After the prohibition period, women may take an additional period of maternity leave, up to two years after the birth of the child. During this period, a mother (or father, if he has taken paternity leave, although both parents may not take leave concurrently) will not receive remuneration through her (or his) employer, although the parent taking leave may withdraw child allowance through social insurance during this time.  Pregnant employees and parents on maternity or paternity leave may not be terminated from employment during that time and for a period of four weeks after returning to work.  The Act also provides regulations for the type of work pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding, and women who have recently given birth may do (i.e., prohibition of certain physical work and manual labor, handling of chemicals, work where the woman must sit or stand for long periods with no break) and regulations regarding the times pregnant and breastfeeding employees may work (i.e., must not work between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., nor Sundays or public holidays).

Social Security Act (1994)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Social Security Act provides maternity benefits to women through a compulsory combined scheme for sickness, maternity and death benefits through matching employer and employee contributions. The Act establishes the National Medical Benefit Fund to administer the payments for such benefits and the National Pension Fund for pension benefits for those who have retired. The Act also makes a provision for the funding of training programs for disadvantaged and unemployed persons through a Development Fund.

Decreto Legislativo 26 marzo 2001, n. 151 (Legislative Decree No. 151/2001) (2001)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

This legislative decree protects maternity and paternity, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of either. It regulates parental leave, leave for the illness of a child, rest, and the treatment of pregnant workers to protect their health. (Note: PDF is the consolidated text only. Follow the external link for the entire text of the decree.)

Código do Trabalho (Lei n.º 7/2009) (2018)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

Section 29 of the Portugese Labor Law ensures equal opportunity in labor and and prevents gender discrimination. The Code also guarantees maternity and paternity leave, bans harassment, establishes universal preschool for children until the age of five, and requires children to attend school.

Código de Trabajo (Labor Code - Law No. 116 of December 20, 2013) (2013)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Chapter 1 of Cuba’s Labor Code sets forth the basic principles of the Labor Code, with specific reference to providing women with positions that are compatible with their physical and physiological characteristics and allowing women to incorporate themselves in the workforce, and entitlements to maternity leave for women, before and after childbirth, including medical services, free of cost, required by maternity. Additionally, Chapter 8 of the Labor Code is devoted to promoting policies conducive to women’s labor, including requirements that (1) the workplace create and maintain labor and sanitary conditions that are adequate for the participation of women in the labor process (Section 2); (2) labor conditions are consistent with the physical and physiological characteristics of women, taking into account, inter alia, women’s elevated functions as mothers (Section 4); and (3) single mothers be provided with stipends to help them care for their children until they return to work (Section 4).

Republic of Cuba Constitution of 1976 (amended 2002; English) (1976)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Article 44 of Cuba’s Constitution states that women and men enjoy equal economic, political, cultural, social and familial rights and that Cuba (the “State”) “guarantees that women will be offered the same opportunities and possibilities as men to achieve their full participation in the development of the country.” Article 44 further states that the State grants working women paid maternity leave before and after childbirth, and temporary work options compatible with their maternal function.

Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Gender-based violence in general, Harmful traditional practices, International law

Article 9 of the FDRE Constitution provides that all international treaties ratified by Ethiopia are integral parts of the law of the land. Similarly, Article 13.2 provides that fundamental rights and freedoms shall be interpreted in a manner conforming to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenants on Human Rights and International instruments adopted by Ethiopia. Ethiopia has ratified many of these treaties including ICCPR, ICESCR, and CEDAW. Article 35 of the FDRE Constitution pertains to the Rights of Women. The article provides for equal rights under the constitution, equal rights with men in marriage, entitlement to affirmative measures, protection from harmful traditional practices, the right to maternity pay, the right to consultation, property rights (including acquiring and controlling and transferring property), employment rights, and access to family planning education. It is worth noting that this article explicitly imposes an obligation and accountability on the state to protect women from violence at Article 35.4:  “The State shall enforce the right of women to eliminate the influences of harmful customs. Laws, customs and practices that oppress or cause bodily or mental harm to women are prohibited.”

Lei Nº 11.770 (2008)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

On September 9, 2008, Law No. 11.770 was enacted to create a tax incentive program for private companies that offer an additional sixty (60) days of maternity leave on top of the mandatory 120 days set forth in Decree No. 5.452/1943. The incentive also applies for adoptions.


Analysis of the precedents of the Cantonal Courts on the Gender Equality Act (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, Sexual harassment

The study is an in-depth analysis of 190 records of cantonal conciliation hearings and judgments under the Federal Gender Equality Act, 1996 (the “Act”) over the period of 2004 to 2015 by authors Karine Lempen (Law Professor, University of Geneva) and Aner Voloder (Lawyer, Office for Gender Equality of the Municipality of Zurich).  Among the major findings and conclusions reached in the study are the following:

Proceedings under the Act are nearly always brought by private individuals (mainly women) and very rarely by organizations, notwithstanding the provision of the Act authorizing court actions relating to gender discrimination to be brought by organizations. Individuals bringing a case of gender discrimination to the courts most commonly complain of pay discrimination or discriminatory dismissal, and in the vast majority of cases employment has ceased before the court issues its judgment.  Bringing an action under the Act very often entails losing one's job. Almost one-third of discrimination cases relate to pregnancy or maternity, with discrimination often occurring on return to work after maternity leave and the mother being dismissed by the employer. Discriminatory or constructive dismissal cases are often adjudged solely under Swiss employment laws rather than under the specific provisions of the Act. In some cases this has resulted in a failure to relax the plaintiff’s burden of proof as provided in the Act. Most persons bringing proceedings for gender-based discrimination do not win their cases, with the analysis showing that 62.5% of rulings enforcing the Act find mostly or entirely against the claiming employee. Similarly, it is not unusual for the employee in the action to be ordered to pay costs which may amount to several thousand Swiss francs. The protection in the Act against constructive dismissal has proved to be fairly ineffective in practice, with court actions rarely being brought under that provision and all but one of such actions failing. The failure rate is particularly high (82.8%) when the alleged form of discrimination is sexual harassment, with the courts often failing to recognize that the intention of procuring sexual favors is not necessary to a finding of a hostile working environment, and therefore of sexual harassment under the Act.  Moreover, it is rare for judgments to assess the extent to which the employer has met its obligation to prevent harassment. The special compensation allowed under the Act for sexual harassment is rarely awarded.

Based on the conclusions reached in the study, the authors make a number of recommendations -- for amendments to the Act and other specific legislative changes, improved training of the judiciary with regard to the Act, actions by Swiss equality offices (including improved data collection, more in-depth study of maternity-based discrimination in Switzerland and actions to raise awareness generally of the Act and the rights it provides), and universities (to require study of the Act as part of the bachelor’s degree course of study in law) -- in order to improve access to justice for people discriminated against on grounds of gender in working life.

Domestic Case Law

De Sousa v. Administración de Parques Nacionales Camara Federal de San Martin (Federal Court of San Martin) (2018)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination, International law

On July 6, 2016, the plaintiff notified the defendant-employer of her pregnancy and intention to take maternity leave.  As of the date of notification, the plaintiff held a temporary executive position.  On July 11, 2016, the defendant notified the plaintiff that her temporary designation as an executive was of no effect.  The defendant subsequently provided a maternity compensation package beginning on the date her temporary designation was revoked, but it did not reflect her higher earnings as a temporary executive.  The court of first instance granted the plaintiff maternity leave at a salary corresponding (1) to her executive status as from the date she provided notice until 30 days before the probable date of birth and (2) to her non-executive status during the 100 days following the birth of the plaintiff’s child.  On appeal, the plaintiff challenged the trial court’s ruling denying her executive pay for the 100-day period following the birth of her child, while the defendant challenged the trial court’s ruling granting the plaintiff executive pay from the date of notice of her pregnancy because of the subsequent cancellation of the plaintiff’s executive status on July 11, 2016.  The appellate court found in favor of the plaintiff, noting that (1) the Argentine Constitution provides for the full protection of women during pregnancy and breastfeeding, (2) the International Treaty for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (to which Argentina is a signatory) requires the adoption of laws that prevent discrimination based on marriage or pregnancy, and (3) the failure to award the plaintiff maternity compensation corresponding to her executive status would result in a failure to ensure employment stability.  The appellate court ruled against the plaintiff’s request to return to her executive position following maternity leave on the basis that the designation was temporary in nature and that laws protecting women during maternity leave cannot alter the fundamental nature of the relationship prior to maternity.

Sentenza n. 937/2017 La Corte d'Appello di Torino: Sezione Lavoro (Court of Appeal of Turin: Labor Section) (2017)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Court of Appeal of Turin upheld the lower court’s judgment deeming a clause of a collective agreement negotiated at the enterprise level to be discriminatory because it infringed on Articles 3 and 37 of the Constitution, Article 25, para 2bis, of Decree No. 198/2006 and Article 3 of Decree No. 151/2001. Under the relevant clause the “real presence at work” was as an eligibility criterion to receive an additional remuneration, it being understood that any family-related leave, including any compulsory maternity leave, parental leave. and/or leave for illness, could affect the employees’ level of performance in that respect. The Court maintained that even though the criterion was formally neutral, it resulted in an indirect pay discrimination since female workers usually take more family-related leave than male workers. Moreover, during the trial, the company failed to provide a permissible justification regarding the requirement of “real presence at work.” Therefore, the employer was ordered to (1) cease the discrimination by computing leave as actual time worked for the purposes of achieving the real presence requirement and becoming eligible for the  additional remuneration, (2) to pay the additional remuneration incentive to the plaintiffs, and (3) to enhance a plan to remove the discrimination by avoiding the inclusion of the above criterion in any future collective bargaining at the enterprise level. The latter was promoted by the intervention of the Regional Equality Adviser as a case of collective discrimination.

Sentencia Numero 740/06 High Court of the Basque Country Contentious-Administrative Chamber (2004)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

During a staff selection process for the Basque Health Service, in particular for the substitution of the chief of psychiatry services in the Santiago de Vitoria Hospital for a period of six (6) months, Mrs. Elena who had had a baby fifteen (15) days before the above mentioned selection process, was obliged by the Basque Health Service authority to renounce to the post she had the right to. The Basque Health Service authority deprived Mrs. Elena from a post that corresponded to her by the position she had in the list of temporary recruitment. The Basque Health Service authority forced Mrs. Elena to renounce to the post because of her recent maternity when she had expressly said that she wanted to accept that job. Art. 48 of the Statute of Workers Right (Estatuto de los Trabajadores) damage the worker depriving them from an appointment that corresponds to the worker. The maternity leave is not equal to a lack of capacity for the performance of their duties for the post under Spanish law. Law 30/1999 of 5th October of selection of temporary workers of the Health Service, does not exclude the recruitment of a person during the maternity leave. The decision of the High Court of the Basque Country was to appoint Mrs. Elena as temporary worker for the Basque Health Service (in particular for the substitution of the chief of psychiatry services in the hospital Santiago de Vitoria) for the remaining period until the fulfillment of the six (6) months period of the vacant position.

Durante un proceso de selección de personal para el Servicio de Salud Vasco, en particular para la sustitución del jefe de servicios de psiquiatría en el Hospital Santiago de Vitoria por un período de seis (6) meses, la Sra. Elena, que había tenido un bebé quince (15) días antes del proceso de selección mencionado anteriormente, fue obligada por la autoridad del Servicio Vasco de Salud a renunciar al cargo al que tenía derecho. La autoridad del Servicio Vasco de Salud privó a la Sra. Elena de un puesto que le correspondía y le otorgó la posición a alguien en la lista de reclutamiento temporal. La autoridad del Servicio Vasco de Salud obligó a la Sra. Elena a renunciar al cargo debido a su reciente maternidad cuando había dicho expresamente que quería aceptar ese trabajo. Artículo 48 del Estatuto de los Trabajadores (Estatuto de los Trabajadores) establece un daño al trabajador que ha sido privado de una cita que le corresponde. La licencia de maternidad no es igual a la falta de capacidad para el desempeño de sus funciones para el puesto bajo la ley española. La Ley 30/1999, de 5 de octubre, de selección de trabajadores temporales del Servicio de Salud, no excluye el reclutamiento de una persona durante la licencia de maternidad. La decisión del Tribunal Superior del País Vasco fue designar a la señora Elena como trabajadora temporal del Servicio Vasco de Salud (en particular para la sustitución del jefe de servicios de psiquiatría en el hospital Santiago de Vitoria) por el período restante hasta el cumplimiento del período de seis (6) meses del puesto vacante.

1 BvR 1409/10 Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) (2011)

Gender discrimination

The Court held that it was in breach of the right to equal treatment enshrined in the German constitution that periods of maternity leave (which affects women only) were not counted towards certain pension benefits whereas periods of sick leave (which affects both men and women) were.

Constitutionality of Social Security Minimum Payment Provision as Applied During Maternity Leave: ADI 1946-5 (in Portuguese) Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (2003)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Brazilian Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal or “STF”) reviewed the constitutionality of the 1998 Amendment 20 of the federal Social Security Law. The amendment imposed a maximum value on the amount of social security benefits that could be paid to a beneficiary under the general social security system at R$1,200 per month. On its face, the R$1,200 maximum applied equally to a number of eligible benefit categories, including maternity or pregnancy-related leave. The amendment was challenged on the grounds that, when read together with Article 7, Section XVIII, of the 1988 Brazilian Constitution, the amendment had a discriminatory effect on women. This provision essentially guarantees that an employee is paid her full salary during maternity leave. By imposing a cap on social security coverage during maternity leave, Amendment 20 would require the employer to cover the difference between the R$1,200 cap and the employee’s full pay. The party challenging the amendment argued that this created a negative incentive to employers who would discriminate in hiring women or in setting women’s salary by paying women less in order to stay under the R$1,200 cap. The Court agreed that Amendment 20 was discriminatory in its effect. In a unanimous decision, the STF held that the effect of Amendment 20 conflicted with the Brazilian Constitution’s equal protection provisions that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. The Court therefore ordered that Amendment 20 be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Article 7 of the Constitution such that implementation of the social security cap does not extend to maternity and pregnancy-related leave.

Affaire B.S. C/ Comission de P Court of Appeal of Burkina Faso at Ouagadougou (2003)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Court found that the employer had acted inconsistently in offering Mrs. B.S. one-month extensions on her fixed term contract and then ending her contract at a time when she would otherwise have begun maternity leave on the grounds that there were no more project-related funds to cover her employment.  This inconsistent behavior supported the finding that Mrs. B.S. had been unfairly dismissed because of pregnancy.  Under Article 33 of the Labor Code, the Court awarded damages to Mrs. B.S. for unfair dismissal.  Furthermore, the Court faulted the employer for having violated Article 84 of the Labor Code which states that pregnant employees must enjoy maternity benefits under the Caisse Nationale de Sécurité Sociale, including 14 weeks of paid leave, and awarded Mrs. B.S. the maternity benefits that she would have received had she not been unfairly dismissed.