Important information on the procedure of the equal treatment authority
The Equal Treatment Authority shall be responsible for investigating the complaints filed for the violation of the principle of equal treatment and enforcing that principle.
- The authority shall proceed in the cases of clients suffering discrimination.
The Act on Equal Treatment prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics. Protected characteristics are as follows: gender, ethnic origin, race, skin colour , age, mother tongue, disability, state of health, motherhood (pregnancy) or fatherhood, family status, sexual orientation, gender identity, social origin, financial status, religious or ideological conviction, political or other opinion, part-time status or fixed-term of employment relationship, membership in an interest representation organization, any other status.
Please contact the Authority if you feel that you are treated less favourably on the ground of any of your protected characteristics than any other person in similar situation.
The Equal Treatment Authority (EBH, following the Hungarian abbreviation) is able to initiate procedure if one year from the date of becoming aware of the breach of the law and three years from the occurrence of the breach of the law have not expired yet.
Types of discrimination
Direct discrimination occurs if a person or a group is treated less favourably on the ground of her/his/its protected characteristic than any other person or group in comparable situation.
Discrimination is indirect if a measure is seemingly neutral and objective, i.e. it seems that it does not violate the principle of equal treatment, but represents a considerably larger disadvantage to those with protected characteristics.
Indirect discrimination happens for instance if an employer unjustifiably requires ten year uninterrupted employment for occupying a position, and thus those who interrupted their employment for child birth or child care are excluded from occupying the position (i.e. the majority of women between 25 and 35 years of age).
Harassment regularly assumes a long process, and can be of sexual or other nature as well. This is such an unwanted conduct that violates human dignity of persons with protected characteristics owing to their characteristics, for the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment around the particular person.
Segregation happens if individuals or groups of individuals are separated from other individuals or groups of individuals in a similar situation without any law expressly allowing it. In Hungary most frequently the separated education of gipsy students represents segregation.
Retribution is a conduct aimed at the infringement of the rights of persons who take steps against the violation of the principle of equal treatment.
Who can turn to the authority and against whom can complaints be submitted?
The procedure may be initiated by natural persons who suffered disadvantage (in person or through their representatives), heads or representatives of legal persons, interest representation organizations or bodies submitting a complaint as actio popularis, in a complaint submitted to the Authority.
Complaints may be submitted against:
state and local government organizations,
organizations exercising official powers,
the Hungarian Army and law enforcement bodies,
organizations performing public utility services, institutions providing educational, social, child protection, cultural and health services,
voluntary insurance funds, private insurance funds,
parties and all other budgetary agencies.
The Authority may also proceed ex officio against:
the State of Hungary,
local governments and nationality local governments and the relevant bodies thereof,
organizations exercising official power, and
the Hungarian Army and the law enforcement bodies,
if the violation of the principle of equal treatment is noticed by the Authority.
The Authority may also proceed in certain relations of the private sector. The Authority may conduct investigations:
in employment relationship, in respect of the employer,
in the course of using state subsidies, in respect of sole traders and partnerships receiving subsidies,
in respect of catering and commercial, as well as cultural institutions and institutions established for the purpose of entertainment,
in respect of bidders of contracts or those who invite such persons to tender.
The Authority may not proceed in all cases. It is not competent for instance in family law relationships, relationships between relatives, relationships of ecclesiastical entities directly connected with the activities of the religious life of churches and relationships between the members of organizations concerning their membership.
It is also important to know that the Authority may not investigate the executive decisions and actions taken by Parliament, the President of the Republic, the Constitutional Court, the State Audit Office, the commissioner of fundamental rights, as well as courts and prosecutor’s offices.
What shall a complaint contain?
In the complaint submitted to the Authority in writing, the complainant must render probable that she/he suffered a disadvantage and the disadvantage or the less favourable treatment which of her/his protected characteristics can be attributed to.
The complaint must contain the complainant’s name, address and her/his express request directed to decision-making by the Authority, description of the place, date and other circumstances of the action complained, and the known data of the body or person complained to.
How is the procedure conducted?
Whenever the Authority establishes its competence, as a main rule, it shall clarify the facts as part of a trial, where both the complainant and the party/parties complained to are heard.
At the request of the witnesses, the Authority shall handle their data closed, particularly in the cases of discrimination in the field of employment, when the witnesses are employees of the employer placed under the procedure.
The trial is public, but the Authority may exclude publicity from a part or the whole trial in justified cases (e.g. in consideration of the personal interests of a minor child).
Rules of proof
Complainant’s obligation of rendering the case probable
The complainant need not prove, but only render probable that she/he suffered a disadvantage, and that she/he actually or as assumed by the offending party possessed any of the protected characteristics listed in the Act at the time of the infringement, i.e., the discrimination indicated by her/him occurred as a result of her/his protected characteristic.
In the case of actio popularis, if the disadvantage has not occurred yet, it must be rendered probable that the direct danger of the disadvantage threatens.
Obligation of proof regarding the person or organization placed under the procedure
In case the petitioner rendered probable the foregoing, the person or organization involved in the procedure may avoid legal accountability if she/he/it proves that
the circumstances rendered probable by the petitioner do not exist,
the principle of equal treatment has been kept because the causality connection between the protected characteristic and the disadvantage is missing,
in the case complained to, she/he/it was not obliged to keep the principle of equal treatment (law allows this within a narrow sphere, e.g. if proportionate differentiation is justified owing to nature of work).
What decision can be taken by the authority?
If it is proved in the course of the procedure that the person or organization placed under the procedure violated the principle of equal treatment, the Authority may
order that the state of infringement be terminated,
forbid the continuation of the violation,
order that its final decision declaring the infringement be made public,
impose fine from HUF 50 thousand to HUF 6 million,
decide on the procedural cost in a way that it must be covered by the offending party.
However, the Authority may not establish financial compensation for a client and may not order the restoration of the original status either (e.g. may not oblige an employer to take the complainant back to his original position).
Prior to taking a decision the Authority shall try in all cases to reach a settlement between the parties. If the parties show willingness and settlement was reached, which corresponds to the law, the Authority shall approve the settlement in a decision. The implementation of the settlement may be enforced in the same way as of the decisions establishing the breach of law.
The procedure is free of duty.
What rights can be excercised by civil organizations?
In procedures initiated concerning the violation of the principle of equal treatment based on the written authorization of the complainant, social and interest representation organizations may proceed as representatives and they can also exercise the so-called client rights (right to notices, access to documents, declaration).
Civil organizations may initiate proceedings before the Authority in the interest of a large group with a protected characteristic (e.g. religious conviction, disability, sexual orientation, race, ethnic origin) in the case of infringement or the imminent danger thereof.
The above organizations may also initiate lawsuits under personal or labour law in the above cases because of the violation of the principle of equal treatment (actio popularis).
Remedy against the decision of the authority
No appeal lies against the decision taken by the EBH, the court review of the decision may be requested at the Budapest Metropolitan Public Administration and Labour Court. Court proceedings are free of duty only if the petitioner was granted personal exemption from duty.
Contact details of the authority
Mailing address: Hungary, 1013 Budapest, Krisztina krt. 39/B
Telephone: (+36-1) 795-2975
You may also contact our equal treatment consultants in person. Our contact details are available on the website www.egyenlobanasmod.hu.