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 the following types of age discrimination: direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and instructions to discriminate against another.
Direct discrimination is when 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 into one of the specific exemptions.
Indirect discrimination is where an action or inaction, legal norm, or criterion, provision or practice, which is age neutral, but advantages or disadvantages persons of a certain age, and which cannot be justified by a legitimate purpose and pursued by proper and necessary means.
Harassment is undesired conduct which is carried out on the grounds of age which aims to violate or does violate the dignity of a person and creates an intimidating, hostile and degrading or offensive environment.
The main national law implementing the EU Directive 2000/78/EC is the Law on Equal Treatment. Age discrimination rules are also established in the Labour Code.
Age discrimination cannot be justified in Lithuania. However, different 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 obliges all state, municipal, education and other institutions (entities) to implement equal treatment. However, there is neither regulation nor case law regarding the application of equal treatment rules in respect of self-employed or agency workers. There are also no specific limitations established, except that for certain positions mandatory retirement ages are prescribed by the laws, e.g. the Law on Public Service establishes 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. Such retirement age limits established for different professions are different and in most cases vary from 60 to 65 years.
What enforcement/remedies exist?
No criminal sanctions are established for the infringement of age discrimination rules. The body supervising the enforcement of age discrimination rules and hearing the claims regarding the alleged infringement is the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman (the “OEOO”).
In case of unlawful dismissal and other violations of age discrimination rules, the enforcing body shall be a court. The civil remedies mainly comprise reinstatement and compensation and are provided for the cases of unlawful dismissal. If such a violation is established, the court can reinstate the employee in his/her previous job and award him/her the average work pay for the entire period from the day of dismissal until the day of the court decision. If the court establishes that the employee may not be reinstated in his/her previous job (e.g. because he/she may be provided with unfavourable work conditions), it shall make a decision recognising the dismissal as unlawful and award him/her a severance payment as well as his/her average wage for a certain period.
The Court of First Instance hears cases of unlawful dismissal in violation of age discrimination rules and decisions may be subject to further appeal.
There is no case law regarding other forms of age discrimination (e.g. harassment, etc.).
How common are claims?
To date, age discrimination claims are not common in Lithuania. The Law on Equal Treatment, although enacted in 2003, has been force since 1 January 2005 (a new version was adopted on 18 June 2008). The comparatively ‘young’ status of the law means that there is therefore no long term experience in administrative or judicial enforcement of age discrimination.
According to the OEOO Annual Report for the year 2011, 36 age discrimination claims were lodged with the Office in 2011, constituting 21% of all claims examined by the OEOO.
Statistics regarding claims heard by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman under other heads of discrimination are as follows: claims regarding discrimination on the ground of sex – 25%, ethnic subordination –9%, social status – 17%, disability – 6%, sexual orientation – 2%, religion and beliefs – 1%.
There were only several reported cases heard in courts and all those cases deal with unlawful dismissal.
What claims are most common and what are trickiest issues for employers?
According to available statistics, the most common age discrimination claims are the claims related to employment relations, i.e. restriction of the rights of old people to be employed or employment under worse employment conditions in comparison with young people. In addition, claims regarding the provisions of legal acts and/or actions of the state or municipal institutions, which restrict the rights of old people and give certain priorities for the young, are also quite common (they constituted 53% of all age discrimination claims lodged with the Office in the year 2011).in the area of the protection of consumer rights. People often feel discriminated because of age in relation to the buying of goods or services (e.g. sometimes old people are forbidden to pay for goods by instalments). These sorts of claims relating to the provision of goods and services constituted 33% of all age discrimination claims lodged with OEOO in 2009.
Another significant group of claims, constituting 33% of all age discrimination claims in the area of the protection of consumer rights. People often feel discriminated because of age in relation to the buying of goods or services (e.g. sometimes old people are refused to pay for goods by instalments).
We have spent very little time advising on age discrimination issues yet. All such assignments are mainly related to unlawful dismissal.
Are there any specific exceptions in your laws?
Specific exceptions are mainly established for retirement age limits which are set for certain positions by applicable laws (please see “Who’s covered?” above).
Retirement age itself may not be considered a valid reason for dismissal, save certain established cases where age limits for certain positions are prescribed by law (please see “Who’s covered?” above).
As already mentioned, so far there is a very scarce case law concerning age discrimination. All reported cases heard by courts dealt with unlawful dismissal on the ground of age. Other age discrimination issues are dealt with by the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman.
One of the cases related to a claim over an application for the position of a secretary. The applicant was rejected for such position because of her age (47 years). She complained to the OEOO. According to the applicant, she was asked about her age by phone firstly and afterwards was told that she would not fit for the job. The OEOO asked the company’s manager for explanation. The manager replied in writing that various requirements were raised for the secretary’s position, including “nice appearance”. The manager contested the applicant’s claim, alleging that, irrespective of the negative answer by phone, she still could apply for the position. However, he also admitted that he would prefer to employ younger employees because they simply perform their functions better. The OEOO noted that the manager failed to explain whether the applicant complied with the job requirements. The manager had indicated in advance that the applicant would not have been suitable for the position. Therefore the Office concluded that the manager violated Paragraph 1 Article 7 of the Law on Equal Treatment (”The acts of an employer shall be deemed as violating equal treatment, if due to a person’s age […] he/she: 1) applies less (more) favourable condition of employment or recruitment to public service […]”). The OEOO decided to notify the company’s manager of the infringement of the law.
In another case, the OEOO received a claim complaining that an applicant was denied subscription to the mobile internet services by a mobile telecommunications company because he was a pensioner. However, the provider of services explained that there are no obstacles for pensioners to receive the said services. Therefore, the OEOO dismissed the claim due to insufficiency of evidence regarding the alleged violation.
Another interesting case concerned a claim regarding the discriminative provision set in the internal rules of a security services company. The internal rules provided that that only women of the age from 19 to 50 years and men of the age from 20 to 45 years could be employed with the company. According to explanations of the general manager of the company, the said provision has never been invoked in practice and it occurred in the rules by mistake. However, the OEOO acknowledged that such provision constitutes a violation of the equal treatment legislation and the company was instructed to eliminate this provision from the company’s internal rules.