In 2010, private individuals, organizations and representatives of employers requested information and legal assistance from the Equal Treatment Authority (hereinafter: the Authority) in about 1.300 cases. Among the nearly 1.500 complaints, the Authority launched proceedings in 377 cases last year, out of which in 40 it established that a violation of rights had occurred, and 244 cases are continuing in 2011. Similarly to previous years, the right of complainants to equal treatment was violated most in the field of employment, in most cases because of a protected characteristic like motherhood, belonging to a trade union or due to another characteristic of the complainant.
Within the scope of rights infringements as established by the Authority, according to types of discrimination, the Authority established that there had been direct discrimination in 36 cases, harassment in 6 cases, and 1 case each of indirect negative discrimination, unlawful segregation and retribution.
Most law violations were related to business organisations in other cases sanctions were brought against local governments, institutions and state organs. Last year, the Authority imposed fines amounting to HUF 20,300,000.
The Authority established that discrimination had occurred in relation to provision of services in 11 cases based on the age, ethnic origin, disability, nationality, skin colour, health condition or another characteristic of the complainant – i.e. because of their so-called protected characteristic.
Among 1.300 applications, due to their being outside the competence of the Authority, nearly 100 cases were forwarded to organisations with other areas of responsibility and scopes of authority for them to handle the case and respond. The number of applications that do not complain of discrimination continues to be high; in these cases, the Authority tried to give professional and easily understandable replies to citizens regarding their problems and possibilities for enforcing their claims. As a response to such applications, the Authority sent out nearly 600 information letters. It is a welcome fact that the number of arrangements or friendly settlements between the parties approved by the Authority increased in comparison to previous years. While in 2009, 18 arrangements or friendly settlements were reached by parties in procedures conducted by the Authority, this number increased to 36 in 2010. The increasing number of cases under investigation indicates that citizens are getting more familiar with the activity of the Authority. In this context, we consider it preferable that instead of applying rigorous punitive sanctions, an approach is applied which is client-centred and based on seeking an arrangement or friendly settlement between the parties. Partly for this reason, the Authority considers it extremely important to explore opportunities for mediation in its procedures, as well as to provide effective, task-oriented, professional intervention that results in real and long-term solution for the parties.
The Authority rejected the complaint in 148 cases, mostly because the subject of the procedure was able to verify that they did not discriminate in favour of those in a situation similar to that of the complainant, or they gave a legal justification for the different treatment.
Last year, 1.226 complainants contacted the lawyers of the national network of equal treatment experts set up under the TÁMOP 5.5.5. project ‘Combating Discrimination – Shaping Societal Attitudes and Strengthening the Work of the Authority’. In the framework of the project, which was/is funded by the European Union (EU), last autumn, the Authority – having become an accredited adult education institution – launched its educational activities. The self-developed training courses, which provide a certificate, are aimed at the sensitisation and social attitude formation of the participants, as well as at increasing their legal knowledge.
By the end of the year, 152 persons completed the Authority’s free, three-day training program. The nation-wide mobile exhibition of the Authority was also launched in September 2010 with the title ‘Live from the playground’. Those interested in equal treatment and equal opportunities can see artwork and short novels submitted by primary and secondary school students for contests of the ‘Young people against discrimination’ program.
Within the framework of the project, the Authority launched research programs aimed at mapping discrimination occurring in the areas of labour and access to public services, through which we continuously monitor discrimination in Hungary. In addition to investigating mechanisms of discrimination, our seven research programs also research the public’s rights awareness.
Similarly to previous years, the Authority considered it to be one of its key tasks to inform the public. In addition to publishing its decisions on its website, it regularly put up brief summaries of the most