Dutch law explicitly prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, personal beliefs, political opinion, race, sex, nationality, heterosexual or homosexual orientation, civil status, age, handicap or chronic disease, or based on temporary / permanent employment contracts or working hours (part-time / full-time).
While, in principle, the law prohibits indirect discrimination (occurs when a neutral behaviour (e.g. a policy or practice) results in discrimination) and direct discrimination (with respect to age, temporary/permanent employment contracts and working hours), circumstances can be justified if objectively necessary to achieve a legitimate aim and proportionate to the aim sought.
Protections Against Harassment
Employers have an obligation to prevent harassment from occurring at the workplace. If the employer fails to do so, administrative fines can be imposed, and the employer can be held liable for damages resulting from the discriminatory behaviour.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
The Dutch government encourages companies to hire disabled persons. As an incentive, the government may grant financial benefits. If an employee is disabled, his/her workplace should still be safe and accessible. The employer is responsible for this. If the workplace needs to be adapted, the employer can ask the Work Placement Branch of the Employee Insurance Agency for financial compensation to carry out such measures.
All employees should be able to fulfil their religious duties. To an extent, the employer cannot interfere with this (e.g., the employer is not obligated to provide his employees with a prayer room. There are no specific laws about this subject in the Netherlands.
In employment relationships in the Netherlands, discrimination claims are not that prominent. In practice, the employer and employee, as well as the Courts, tend to search for reasonable, pragmatic and practical solutions. An employee can also appeal to the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights and although the Court is not obliged to follow the opinion of the Institute, the opinion can play an important role, in light of the Institute’s expertise in this area.