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ECJ rules against Polish workplace LGBTQ discrimination

January 12, 2023

Judges in Luxembourg have ruled that employers cannot terminate contracts based on a person's sexual orientation. The European Court of Justice said a Polish court had made the wrong decision.

People take part in the Equality March in Krakow, Poland
The court was advised in September that the Polish regulation should be ruled invalidImage: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/picture alliance

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Thursday ruled against discrimination against self-employed workers because of their sexual orientation in Poland.

The Polish government, which has long been accused of promoting homophobia, has been embroiled in a long-running row with the EU over the independence of the country's courts.

Why was the case heard? 

The case revolves around a television freelancer who was effectively fired after he published a Christmas song on YouTube that promoted tolerance towards same-sex couples.

The nationwide public broadcaster TP, which had employed the man for seven years from 2010 to 2017, refused to sign a new contract for his editing services because of the man's sexual orientation.

The man sued the broadcaster in Warsaw for damages and compensation, but was unsuccessful.

The Polish court took into account a national law stating that sexual orientation could be taken into account when choosing a contractual partner. It referred the case to the ECJ for clarification.

LGBTQ activists march in Warsaw

The ECJ noted that the EU law on equal treatment in employment and occupation, known as Directive 2000/78, protects against discrimination, including against a person's sexual orientation. 

"The Court notes that to accept that freedom of contract allows a refusal to contract with a person on the ground of that person’s sexual orientation would deprive Directive 2000/78, and the prohibition of any discrimination based on that ground, of its practical effect," the court ruled.

Legal advice delivered to the ECJ in September said the national law allowing discrimination did not comply with the EU law. Judges at the European court are not required to follow this opinion, but they often do.

Concerns over LGBTQ rights in Poland

Since it came to power in 2015, Poland's Law and Justice party (PiS) has sought to instill more conservative, traditional family values and has been accused of fomenting homophobia.

A 2015-2016 report titled "Situation of LGBTA Persons in Poland" concluded that 69% of LGBTQ people in Poland under 18 had suicidal thoughts.

Edited by: Rebecca Staudenmaier