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COMPETENCES AND TASKS

The competences and tasks of the Advocate of the Principle of Equality are stipulated by the Protection against Discrimination Act.

The Advocate is responsible for protection against discrimination in the public and private sectors, and in certain cases also ensures protection against discrimination of legal entities.

The Advocate provides information, advice and advocacy to anyone who believes to have been discriminated against.

In order for the Advocate to be competent for a particular case, the unequal treatment must have occurred due to the gender, nationality, race or ethnic origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, parenthood, pregnancy and any other personal grounds of the person subject to unequal treatment. Only in these cases discrimination, as defined by the Protection against Discrimination Act based on which the Advocate operates, can be considered. 

The Advocate accepts complaints of alleged victims of discrimination and investigates discrimination in official procedures. At the same time, the equality body provides independent assistance in exercising the rights of victims in administrative and judicial proceedings related to discrimination, participates in judicial proceedings linked to discrimination by representing or accompanying a discriminated person in judicial proceedings. The Advocate also assesses the discriminativeness of regulations and may also lodge an appeal for an assessment of the constitutionality and legality of regulations and general legal instruments.

The Advocate’s extremely comprehensive task is to monitor the state of discrimination in the country. For this purpose, the equality body conducts independent studies, research, analyses and exchanges knowledge with domestic and European equality bodies.

Based on the above, the Advocate also addresses recommendations for the elimination of discrimination and recommendations for the prevention of discrimination at competent authorities. Recommendations for the elimination of discrimination are given based on the established discriminativeness of regulations or a particular conduct, which is assessed in the discrimination investigation
procedure. Recommendations are made to prevent discrimination when adopting or amending legislation and to promote equal treatment.

The Advocate also informs and raises awareness about discrimination in general. It is done by publishing independent reports and other information on the website, social networks, printing leaflets, field visits, fair events, and by appearing in the media.

The Advocate provides independent assistance to victims of discrimination, in the form of support in filing complaints; information on discrimination and judicial protection against discrimination; advice and legal assistance in the exercise of individual rights related to protection against discrimination in proceedings pertaining to discrimination (e.g. which legal paths are available and how to use them before other state authorities).

In specific cases, the Advocate of the Principle of Equality may also represent the discriminated person or accompany them in court proceedings, if the discriminated person gives their authorization or consent to it. The Advocate of the Principle of Equality decides on whether to participate in court proceedings in a particular case, specifically with regard to: strategic priorities, the nature of the case, its own personnel and financial capabilities and findings in the specific case of discrimination. The Advocate assesses the principle of equality on a case-by-case basis.

Article 1 of the Protection against Discrimination Act stipulates the purpose of the Act – that is, the protection of every individual against discrimination regardless of their gender, nationality, race or ethnic origin, language, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, social status, property status, education or any other personal ground. In addition to the above, personal grounds which can be the basis for discrimination include pregnancy, parenthood, health status, skin colour and the like.

The Act provides protection against discrimination based on various personal grounds in various areas of social life, in the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as in the exercise of rights and obligations and in other legal relations in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or other spheres.

Anyone who believes that they have been subject to discrimination may submit a complaint with the Advocate of the Principle of Equality.

In accordance with the Protection against Discrimination Act, the Advocate conducts discrimination investigation procedures and performs certain inspection tasks over the implementation of this Act.

The discrimination investigation procedure begins on the basis of a complaint of the discriminated person, but may also be initiated ex officio if the Advocate was informed of the occurrence of discrimination on the basis of an anonymous proposal, a proposal of a third party or in another way.

People who believe they have been discriminated against may submit a complaint.

After receiving such a complaint or initiating an ex officio discrimination investigation procedure, the Advocate examines it under the General Administrative Procedure Act.

Every complaint received is first examined and assessed whether the burden of asserting is met. This means that the following is being checked:

  • whether the facts given justify the presumption that an infringement of the principle of non-discrimination occurred;
  • whether the personal ground leading to an inferior treatment is stated;
  • whether the treatment giving rise to the complaint is of such a nature as to interfere with rights, freedoms, benefits or legal interests; and
  • whether a causal link exists between the personal ground and the inferior treatment.

If in the reported case no personal ground can be identified as reason for unequal treatment, it is very likely that discrimination did not take place, but perhaps other irregularities for which other authorities are competent.

Namely, we can talk about discrimination only when the basis for certain unjust conduct are personal grounds of a person who has been subject to inappropriate or worse treatment.

This means that a person has been treated worse only because they are a man or a woman (personal ground of gender), because they are of a certain nationality (personal ground of nationality), because they have a different colour of skin than the majority in a certain environment (personal ground of race or ethnic origin), because they do not know the language of a certain environment (personal ground of language), because they are a Christian, a Muslim or a member of another religion (personal ground of religion or belief), because they have certain disabilities (personal ground of disability), because of their age (personal ground of age), because they fall in love with persons of the same sex (personal ground of sexual orientation), because despite the physical characteristics attributed to the male or female sex, their behaviour is more similar to the behaviour attributed to the other sex (personal ground of gender identity and gender expression), because they are homeless (personal ground of social status), because they are poor (personal ground of property status), because they have a certain education (personal ground of education) or due to pregnancy, parenting, and the like.

When lodging a complaint, it is therefore very important to state the personal grounds that were the reason for a certain unequal treatment.

If the Advocate considers that a law or other regulation is discriminatory, a proceeding to review the constitutionality or legality of a regulation or general act issued for the exercise of public authority may be initiated or the proposer of the constitutionality and legality assessment procedure may be informed.

The initiative to launch the constitutionality assessment procedure in relation to a regulation is a legal remedy to eliminate the inconsistency of a legal act with the Constitution or the inconsistency of a by-law or general act issued for the exercise of public authority with the Constitution or law before the Constitutional Court.

The Advocate’s work in the field of promoting equality and preventing discrimination is multifaceted. Activities are divided into several work packages.

The most extensive work package covers the recording, observation and monitoring of discrimination. These activities include the following:

  • Internal statistics of the authority, queries, consultations, assistance, support, media monitoring, addressing complaints received, questions and the like,
  • monitoring and analysis of the work of inspections,
  • monitoring discrimination as addressed and perceived by other state authorities,
  • monitoring and recording of preventive measures implemented by Ministries and other state authorities,
  • examining existing and new legislative procedures and giving opinions (in terms of content and effects),
  • recording the work of the European Court of Human Rights, domestic and international case law,
  • accession to and implementation of obligations under international treaties, agreements and conventions, collecting observations and topics,
  • monitoring specific topics (grounds, areas, forms).

 Other work packages are related to:

  • Research and queries on personal grounds, areas and forms of discrimination andother related surveys (opinion polls),
  • establishing and maintaining dialoguewith key NGOs and discriminated groups as well as with state institutions,
  • preparing opinions and recommendations
  • raising awareness of the general public and groupsby personal grounds, areas and forms of discrimination with the aim of preventing and eliminating discrimination and intolerance and promoting diversity and good relations between different groups in society,
  • educating the general public and target groupsaccording to specific personal grounds, areas, and forms of discrimination and according to entities and groups,
  • cooperation
  • international cooperation and exchange within Equinet, the Council of Europe, the European Commission, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the United Nations (UN), diplomatic missions as well as bilateral cooperation,
  • preparation of annual and special reports