This summary of age discrimination law in Latvia has been prepared by COBALT Latvia, the Ius Laboris affiliate for Latvia: www.cobalt.legal
Satversme, the Constitution of the Republic of Latvia (the "Constitutional Law"), effective as of February 15, 1922, contains a general prohibition of discrimination and also provides that everyone has the right to freely choose their employment and workplace according to their abilities and qualifications. Nevertheless, the Constitutional Law also indicates that those rights can be subject to restrictions in order to protect the rights of other people, the democratic structure of the State public safety, welfare and morals. Thus, age discrimination will be justified if it has reasonable and objective justification, it is prescribed by law, pursues a legitimate aim and there is a certain extent of proportionality between the means employed and aims sought to be released.
Moreover, the Latvian Labour Law (the "Labour Law"), effective as of June 1, 2002, provides that everyone has an equal right to work, to fair, safe and healthy working conditions, as well as to fair work remuneration. The said rights shall be ensured without any direct or indirect discrimination, irrespective of a person’s race, skin colour, gender, age, disability, religious, political or other conviction, ethnic or social origin, property or marital status or other circumstances.
Both the Labour Law and Constitutional Law permit the use of age-based distinctions when necessary as a result of a genuine occupational requirement, and also permit the use of age criteria in circumstances which would otherwise constitute direct discrimination when this can be demonstrated to be objectively necessary to achieve a legitimate and proportionate aim. Indirect age discrimination can also be justified if objectively necessary and proportionate.
This is demonstrated by the general prohibition to stipulate age requirement in an employment advertisement, except in cases when the law prescribes a certain age requirement for the particular position. For example, Article 9 of the Constitutional Law provides that only a citizen of Latvia who has reached the age of 21 can be elected as a member of the Parliament.
In addition, the Labour Law prohibits applying sanctions to an employee or to otherwise directly or indirectly cause adverse consequences for him/her because the employee, within the scope of his/her employment relationships, exercises his/her rights in a permissible manner.
The Labour Law does not specifically indicate harassment as a type of discrimination, which is so indicated under the Council Directive 2000/43/EC. The Labour Law also provides that a person's rights shall be ensured without any discrimination, irrespective of circumstances. The Labour Law’s wording "other circumstances" is interpreted by Latvian courts in the light to include all types of discrimination.
Directives combating discrimination, Council Directive 2000/43/EC, Council Directive 2000/78/EC, Directive 2002/73/EC and Directive 2006/54/EC are implemented in the Labour Law.
The Labour Law only covers prohibition of age discrimination against employees. The Constitutional Law, however, sets down a general principle of equality and rights on employment and in the workplace, and the possibility to restrict such rights under certain circumstances. Thus, the scope of the Constitutional Law is broader and it covers all people, whether employed on the basis of an employment contract, self-employed, agents or others.
The prohibition of age discrimination is not limited to a certain age or limited in any other ways. There are no categories of employees who are excluded from the prohibition of age discrimination.
What enforcement / remedies exist?
The Criminal Law does not qualify age discrimination as a criminal offence.
The Labour Law provides that if the prohibition against differential treatment is violated, the employee, in addition to rights specified in the Labour Law, has the right to request compensation for damages and compensation for moral harm. In case of dispute, a court at its own discretion shall determine the amount of compensation for moral harm.
According to the Civil Law, Section of Contract Law, effective as of March 1, 1993, every prohibited action as a result of which damages (also moral harm) have been caused, gives the offended party the right to ask for satisfaction from the wrongdoer, namely, the offended party can ask for compensation (not indicated in the respective law). Claims concerning discrimination cases can be brought in front of a court with a general jurisdiction for hearing legal claims.
In the case of age discrimination an employee is entitled to directly file a claim with a court. In addition, any person can file a claim with the Constitutional Court to evaluate the compliance of any legal provision with the Constitutional Law.
The State Labour Inspection, established in 1992, is entitled to take measures to ensure effective implementation of the state policy in the field of employment legal relationships, labour protection and technical supervision of dangerous equipment. The State Labour Inspection supervises and controls merchants, state and local governmental institutions, religious and public organisations, employers and their authorised persons, and any places in an undertaking that are accessible to employees in the course of their work. The State Labour Inspection is entitled to review complaints, issue warnings, instructions, apply administrative penalties or inform the prosecutor's office, state and local government institutions about violations of labour laws.
The National Human Rights Office, established in 1996, became the Ombudsman Office in 2007. The Ombudsman is working, inter alia, to ensure equal treatment and prevention of discrimination. The Ombudsman is entitled to react to such violations and file a claim with the respective court.
How common are claims?
Claims on age discrimination are not very common and have started only recently. First judgements involving age discrimination were taken only in 2003. In 2009 the total number of complaints were six and comparatively low activity can be seen also in other years. In 2014 the Ombudsman Office received only one complaint regarding age discrimination.
In comparison to other forms of discrimination, claims regarding age discrimination are much less common than, for example, claims regarding sex discrimination or others.
What claims are most common and what are trickiest issues for employers?
The most common cases to be brought in front of a court are those related to gender discrimination and racial discrimination. One of the most common mistakes by employers is to set higher remuneration for the same work or offer more bonuses in a similar situation for male employees than for female employees.
Other types of discrimination cases, which may increase in future, are those related to age discrimination. Employers are reluctant to employ people approaching the age of retirement.
Are there any specific exceptions in your laws?
Persons can be employed from the age of 15. Employing children is not allowed (children within the meaning of the Labour Law are persons below the age of 15, or 18 if he or she continues to obtain elementary education). Nevertheless, there is an exception to this and in certain cases persons can be employed already from the age of 13. The general retirement age in Latvia is the age of 62.5 years for both men and women.
There are specific professions which are governed by separate laws and which require certain physical capacities in order to fulfil the job duties. Such professions are policemen, firemen, seamen, professional dancers, etc., and in most cases the retirement age limit for these professions is below the general retirement age. There are also specific professions, where the age limit is above the general retirement age, e.g., the maximum age for holding an office as a judge of a district or regional court is 65, however as a judge of the Supreme Court it is even higher - 70 years (with a possibility to extend the term up to 5 years).
If a collective agreement or an employment contract provides for any benefits, bonuses or other conditions to be fulfilled prior to terminating the employment relationship and such conditions are in line with the respective labour laws, the employer has to fulfil the agreed conditions prior to the dismissal. The Labour Law provides that under certain circumstances upon giving a notice of termination, an employer has a duty to pay severance pay to an employee, which depends on the amount of years the employee has worked for the respective employer, i.e., the longer he/she has worked, the higher is the severance pay.
In a case where a reduction of employees is sought, preference is given to those employees who have higher performance results and higher qualifications. Should performance and qualifications not substantially differ, the preference to remain in employment shall be given for employees of certain categories, among which are persons who have less than five years until reaching the retirement age.
There is no mandatory retirement age in Latvia. The Labour Law does not provide an age above which employers can dismiss employees without the employer needing to objectively justify the dismissal in order to avoid a finding of unlawful age discrimination. By reaching the regular retirement age of 62.5 years, the discretion whether to retire or not lies solely with the respective person and the employer may not terminate the employment relationship due to the fact that the person has reached the said retirement age.
In addition, the employment of state civil servants is regulated under a separate law (State Civil Service Law) and it includes an age limit of employment with the state civil service. State civil servants can be only such persons who have not reached the regular age of retirement stipulated by law. State civil servants can be dismissed without needing to objectively justify the dismissal upon reaching the general age of retirement.
Both of the below cases were filed by applicants in order to ensure amendments on age limits in the respective laws.
The first case is the so called University Law case (The Constitutional Court Case No. 2002-21-01 of 20 May, 2003). The Law on Institutions of Higher Education provided that the elected positions of a professor, associated professor, assistant professor and administrative position (rector, pro-rector, dean) within a higher education institution can be held until the age of 65 years. Similar provisions were also included in the Law on Scientific Activity. Three applicants who had reached the age of 65 years and could potentially hold a position of a professor applied before the Constitutional Court in order to contest constitutionality the respective provisions setting the age limit.
The Constitutional Court recognised that provisions of the above mentioned laws were age discriminatory and confirmed that the Law on Institutions of Higher Education and the Law on Scientific Activity were not compliant with the Constitutional Law. Consequently, the respective provisions of laws were held null and void as of the date of the announcement of the judgment and the laws were amended later.
The second case is the State Civil Service Law case (The Constitutional Court Case No. 2003-12-01 of 18 December, 2003). In this case the applicant filed a claim with the Constitutional Court based on the fact that certain provisions of the State Civil Service Law were discriminatory in relation to the person's age, i.e., the state civil service employment relationship was to be terminated upon reaching the age of retirement determined by the state (except in cases where there is a motivated order of the head of the institution in respect of the relevant civil servant to remain in his/her position).
In this case the Constitutional Court did not recognise the fact of discrimination with regards to age and ruled that the respective provisions were in conformity with the Constitutional Law. The fact of age discrimination was not recognised because the facts and circumstances as well as the underlying principles were different from the aforementioned University Law case that was decided by the Constitutional Court earlier. The court's reasoning was that the provided age restriction is proportionate to the legitimate aim of the respective law and that consequently there is no violation of the rights enshrined in the Constitutional Law.