The recent Italian case of NH v Associazione Avvocatura peri diritti LGBTI has grappled with an interesting question; is it unlawful to publicly declare that you would never employ a homosexual member of staff?
A senior lawyer within an Italian law firm was being interviewed on the radio. He voiced the opinion that he would not employ a homosexual within his business. He was not actually recruiting any employees at the time. Nevertheless, a group which campaigns for the rights of LGBT lawyers brought claims against the law firm in question, arguing that the lawyer’s comments amounted to unlawful sexual orientation discrimination.
This case recently went before the European Court of Justice, which decided that statements of this nature could discourage gay people from applying for work within the law firm in question. As a result, the conduct could constitute an act of unlawful sexual orientation discrimination.
The ECJ stated that in such cases, it would be appropriate for domestic courts and tribunals to impose a sanction (including a financial penalty) which is “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”.
In the current case, despite the fact that no specific individual could be said to have missed out on the chance of employment with the firm in question, an Italian court awarded the campaign group who brought the claim the sum of €10,000.