This summary of age discrimination law in Lithuania has been prepared by COBALT Lithuania, the Ius Laboris affiliate for Lithuania: www.cobalt.legal.
Lithuanian law prohibits age discrimination. Discrimination is defined to include direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment, and instructions to discriminate against another.
Direct discrimination against another on the basis of age refers to any situation where one person is treated, has been treated or would be treated less favourably than another, in a comparable situation, on the grounds of age, and where the situation does not fall under any of the specific exemptions established in the Republic of Lithuania Law on Equal Treatment No IX-1826 (the “Law on Equal Treatment”).
Indirect discrimination refers to any action or omission, legal provision or assessment criterion, which is apparently neutral provision or practice that formally are the same but their implementation or application results or would result in de facto restrictions on the exercise of rights or extensions of privileges, preferences or advantages on the grounds of the particular characteristic, unless that act or omission, legal provision or assessment criterion, provision or practice is justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.
Harassment refers to any undesired conduct which is carried out on the particular characteristic, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, and of creating an intimidating, hostile and humiliating or offensive environment.
An instruction to discriminate against a person on the ground of age is deemed to be discrimination.
The fundamental national law implementing EU Directive 2000/78/EC is the Law on Equal Treatment. Age discrimination rules are also established in the Republic of Lithuania Labour Code No XII-2603.
Differential treatment because of age may be allowed in certain established cases (e.g. when age limits for certain positions are prescribed by applicable laws).
The Law on Equal Treatment prescribes that all public and municipal authorities, educational and other institutions and entities implement equal treatment. However, there is neither any regulation nor case law covering self-employed or agency workers.
WHAT ENFORCEMENT/REMEDIES EXIST?
Pursuant to the Criminal Code No VIII-1968, the perpetrator shall be punished either by way of community service, a fine, restriction of liberty, by arrest, or by a custodial sentence for a term of up to three years.
The Republic of Lithuania Code of Administrative Offences No XII-1869 establishes that a breach of equal opportunities provided by the Law on Equal Treatment shall incur a fine to the directors of legal persons, employers or other responsible persons from EUR 40 to EUR 560. For repeated offences, the fine may range from EUR 560 to EUR 1200.
The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson (the “OEOO”) supervises the enforcement of age discrimination rules and hears discrimination claims. Filing an appeal with the OEOO does not preclude the claimant from going to court.
A court has jurisdiction to hear a claim for unlawful dismissal on the grounds of age discrimination. The court of first instance hears cases of unlawful dismissal in violation of age discrimination rules and its decisions may be subject to further appeal.
A successful claimant may be entitled to claim compensation for both pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. In cases of unlawful dismissal, a claimant may be reinstated to his/her previous role and be awarded back wages from the date of dismissal until the date of the court decision (up to one year). If the court finds that the employee may not be reinstated (e.g. because he/she may be provided with unfavourable work conditions), the court may award the employee a severance payment.
HOW COMMON ARE CLAIMS?
Age discrimination claims are not common in Lithuania. This is perhaps attributed to the fact that this is still a rather “young” area of the law and there is no long-term experience of administrative or judicial enforcement of age discrimination. The Law on Equal Treatment, although enacted in 2003, was only effective since 1 January 2005. A new version was adopted on 8 November 2016.
According to the OEOO Annual Report, 37 age discrimination claims were lodged with the Office in 2017, constituting 15% of all claims examined by the OEOO. Statistics regarding claims under other heads of discrimination are as follows: claims regarding discrimination on the ground of sex – 27%, ethnic origin –10%, social status – 8.4%, disability – 18%, sexual orientation – 1%, religion and beliefs – 5%.
WHAT CLAIMS ARE MOST COMMON AND WHAT ARE TRICKIEST ISSUES FOR EMPLOYERS?
In 2017, 12 out of 18 cases concerned job advertisement investigations containing age requirements. For the most part, the specific age ranges between 20 and 36 years. There have also been complaints about violations concerning salaries, working conditions, dismissals and recruitment.
Almost 35% of all age discrimination investigations were related to other grounds – sex (6 cases), social status (3 cases), and disability (6 cases). Discrimination against individuals on the grounds of sex and age most commonly arise in job advertisements. Disability discrimination is often faced in the activity of public and municipal authorities (57% in 2017).
ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC EXCEPTIONS IN YOUR LAWS?
Specific exceptions are mainly applicable to persons in certain positions as below.
There are no specific age limitations except for certain positions where mandatory retirement ages are prescribed by the laws governing the specific areas, e.g. the Law on Public Service sets an upper age limit for career civil servants; the Law on the Prosecutor's Office, for public prosecutors; the Law on Courts, for judges, etc. This may vary depending on the profession and usually range from 60 to 65 years.
Retirement age may not in itself be considered a valid reason for dismissal, unless this has been prescribed by law.
There are very few cases concerning age discrimination. Most age discrimination issues are dealt with by the OEOO.
One of the cases regarding age discrimination is related to a post on the Facebook in which a night club advertising an event specified that only men above 25 years of age and women above 21 years of age would be allowed entry. The OEOO started an investigation on its own initiative. It held that the advertisement about the event focused on a different age criterion for male and female individuals in respect of the same services. Its text implied that the right of a man under 25 years to participate in the event was restricted and unjustified privileges were given to women. The OEOO concluded that the night club unreasonably restricted the rights of individuals on the grounds of age and sex.
In another case, the OEOO received a claim complaining about required age limit to enter a sports competition. The OEOO investigated the provisions of an order of the Lithuanian Archery Federation that set the age limit of 45 for people wishing to participate in the selection for the Olympic Games. It also included a provision that the age limit did not apply if certain standards specified in the order were met. The OEOO noted that both groups were allowed to participate in the selection for the Olympic Games, and both groups were required to comply with the standards specified in the order; however, it was obvious that priority would be given to individuals under 45 years of age. The OEOO concluded that the provision of the order was discriminatory, because it applied less favourable conditions to people above the age of 45.
Another interesting case concerned a claim regarding an age discriminatory provision set for customers wishing to subscribe to a payment plan package. According to the applicant, a bank set a EUR 0.70 fee per month for the payment package, "Convenient", to customers participating in the Youth Programme. To be eligible, customers had to be between 22 and 25. Meanwhile, customers over 25 years old had to pay EUR 1.70 per month. The OEOO asked the bank’s representatives for an explanation. They explained in writing that age-based pricing of payment services of the bank is linked to the bank’s ambition to contribute to the attainment of the objectives of the Republic of Lithuania Law on Youth Policy Framework No IX-1871 (the “Law”), i.e. to create conditions for young people to have proper social environment, to obtain all-round education, etc. However, the OEOO noted that the definition of young people provided in the Law includes individuals between the ages of 14 and 29 and found that the provisions of the payment package violated the equal treatment legislation.