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Anti-Discrimination Laws in Belgium

1. Brief Description of Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Belgian Constitution guarantees the equality of Belgian citizens and the equality between men and women. It also guarantees the exercise of the rights and freedoms for all Belgian citizens without any discrimination. This also covers the rights and freedoms of the ideological and philosophical minorities.

2. Extent of Protection

The protected criteria are the following:

    General Act

    • Sensitive Criteria: age, sexual orientation, religious and philosophical conviction and handicap.
    • General Criteria: marital status, birth, wealth, political conviction, syndical conviction, language, current or future health condition, physical or genetic characteristics and social background.
  • Gender Act: sex, including pregnancy, giving birth and maternity, sex change and gender identity or gender expression.
  • Racism Act: nationality, a so-called race, colour of skin, social background and national or ethnic origin.

3. Protections Against Discrimination

A distinction, which is based on a legitimate ground of justification, is not discrimination.

A distinction, which should be regarded as discrimination could nevertheless be regarded as lawful if it is justified by one of several motives.

A law was voted on in 2012 to reduce the salary gap between men and women. The main idea is to make the salary gap more visible and transparent in order to allow the Social Partners to negotiate and decrease the gap. In view of this, certain measures have been taken (for example, the drafting of an analysis report on the remuneration structure at company level and a gender test for the functions’ classification at industry level).

4. Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations

According to Belgian Legislation, employers are obliged to provide all reasonable accommodations that would allow a person with a disability to have access to a job, unless such measures would entail an unreasonable burden for the employer. Since the Belgian antidiscrimination legislation is predominantly a transposition of EU legislation, the case law of the ECJ is crucial for the determination of which accommodations can be deemed reasonable or not.

5. Remedies

Any provisions which are inconsistent with the anti-discrimination acts or which stipulate that a contracting party renounces any rights granted by these acts are null and void.

Victims of discrimination and witnesses who testified are protected against detrimental measures taken by the employer.

The employee (victim of discrimination) has a choice between compensation on a lump sum basis and compensation of the actual damage suffered. In the latter case, the employee has to prove the amount of the damage suffered.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Belgium, please contact Chris Van Olmen, Partner at Van Olmen & Wynant (www.vow.be) at chris.van.olmen@vow.be
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