Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Russians Essentially Defenseless Against Ethnic, Sex and Age Discrimination in the Workplace

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 8 – Discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender or age is illegal in Russia, but those who face such discrimination have few legal recourses, Ivan Ovsyannikov says; and as a result, despite the formal prohibitions, few cases about it have been successfully brought and thus discrimination of all kinds is flourishing in the Russian Federation.

            In a report for Eurasianet.org, the Russian journalist says that it is “practically impossible” for a worker to show that his rights have been violated. “The existing legal mechanisms in practice are applied extremely rarely,” and judges seldom give much compensation to victims (russian.eurasianet.org/россия-работники-беззащитны-перед-лицом-дискриминации).

            Ethnic discrimination is especially widespread. Many managers do not want to hire non-Slavs and the few who are hired are not promoted even when they are rated more successful than their ethnic Russian fellow workers, Ovsyannikov says. Open expression of contempt for non-Slavs is quite widespread, but few non-Russians have turned to the courts for redress.

            “Moscow and Petersburg employers prefer to have employees with Slavic, German or Jewish names and reject applicants of Caucasian, Central Asian and Tatar origin. The latter are invited for interviews on average 30 to 35 percent less often than are Russians, for example,” the journalist continues. (For documentation, see conf.hse.ru/2018/news/218028456.html).

Women are also subjected to discrimination in the workplace on a regular basis. They receive on average 27.9 percent less pay than men, compared to a worldwide average of 20.5 percent (ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_650553.pdf).

            Many male managers are reluctant to hire women because they fear they will take time off to raise children, they give them fewer opportunities to develop their skills, and are far less likely to promote women, even when they are the most qualified, Ovsyannikov says.  There is even an informal quota system in many workplaces: one woman is OK, two is too much.

            The increase in the pension age this year increased the possibility that workers would be discriminated against because of age. The Duma passed a law banning it, but so far there is little indication that it has prevented the propensity of employers to sidetrack or even fire older and more expensive workers in favor of younger ones.

            Despite widespread discrimination of all these kinds, it is very difficult for workers to prove discrimination in Russian courts, the journalist continues, in part because in contrast to many other countries, the burden of proof lies entirely on the worker and therefore judges are often inclined to dismiss such claims.

            And even when the courts do find for the complainants, they do little to help them. They seldom ensure compensation for more than “moral” harm and do not even guarantee the individual will get his position back.  The case of the Aeroflot stewardesses was a happy exception to this pattern, but even they got only 5,000 rubles (70 US dollars) in compensation.

            Another form of discrimination, a list of professions women are not allowed in, is currently the subject of much complaint and government review. The authorities have cut the number of such professions from 456 to 78, but activists say there should not be any such list at all.

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