Belgian firm Feryn discriminates against foreigners

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European Court of Justice says the Belgian door manufacturer violates anti-discrimination law for refusing to hire foreigners.

11 July 2008

BELGIUM – The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that any employer who says he does not hire people of a certain ethnic origin is in violation of anti-discrimination law in a case against the Belgian door manufacturer Feryn.

Feryn, which specialises in making garage doors, announces publicly a few years ago that it did not hire foreigners as its clients did not want foreigners coming into their house.

The Belgian Centre for Equality and Against Racism took the issue up with the court.  In a first ruling, the company was exonerated.  The Centre appealed this ruling.

The presiding judge in the appeals case asked the advice of the ECJ. 

The ECJ comes back with a ruling that it clearly constitutes discrimination, even though there is no apparent plaintiff as an individual. The ECJ says that such open declarations could dissuade certain people from applying to work at the company.

"There does not have to be a tangible victim. Public declarations, in and of themselves, can constitute the suspicion of discrimination and it is up to the employer to come up with proof to the contrary," declares Stefaan Van der Jeught of the ECJ.

The European Court adds that it is now up to the Belgian judge to impose sanctions which are both proportional and act as a deterrent.

Jozef De Witte of the Belgian Centre for Equality and Against Racism is very pleased with the judgement. "This applies not just to one company, but to all companies- public or private- all over Europe."

"It constitutes a line which cannot be crossed.  This ruling is important, not just for Belgium, but for all the European countries."

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