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Tuesday 25 June 2019
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EOC: Concordat doesn’t prevent equal opportunities

WHILE the Concordat gives certain rights to religious schools, they must still obey the Equal Opportunities Act (EOA), said the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in a statement.

“Under the Concordat of December 1960, denominational schools are entitled to have the religion of their denomination taught in their schools, and by teachers belonging to that denomination. “However, under the Equal Opportunity Act 2000, they may not be entitled to deny employment to any person, or admission to any student, on the basis of that person’s religion, and this includes, not just that person’s religious beliefs, but the outward manifestation of those beliefs.”

Referring to the incident in which an on-the-job trainee was told she could not teach at Lakshmi Girls’ Hindu College because she wore a hijab, the statement said the act defines employment as including an apprentice, trainee or contractor.

It explained, “The act prohibits discrimination in employment which will include discrimination in recruitment, remuneration, transfers, promotions, and termination, on the basis of a number of personal and inherent characteristics known as ‘status’ grounds. Currently, there are seven status grounds that are protected; these are – race, ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, origin and disability.”

The statement said anyone who believes they have been discriminated against can complain to the EOC, which will investigate and seek conciliation.

“If the complaint cannot be resolved at the level of the EOC, the matter may be referred to the Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT), which is a superior court of record and is presided over by a judge. The EOT is empowered to make orders, declarations and awards of compensation as it deems fit.”

Last year the EOC received 20 complaints, up from six in 2016.

The statement cited the 2013 case of Giselle Glaude vs Quality Security Bodyguard Services, in which a woman fired for wearing a hijab was awarded $150,000 in compensation.

“The EOT held that the wearing of the hijab was an outward manifestation of Ms Glaude’s sincerely held religious belief.

The court found her wearing the hijab did not cause any hardship on the employer. It did not affect the performance of her duties.

Consequently the court ruled that the employers had discriminated against her in terminating her and ordered they pay her $150,000 plus interest and legal costs. The sum did not include any loss of earnings as she did not claim for this.”

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