Gender-based discrimination at work is rarely reported to the competent institutions in Montenegro, and the fear of dismissal is one of the most common causes of non-reporting, it was announced at the conference of the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro (SMCG).
Researcher-political scientist, Dragana Zaric, said at the conference “Cases of discrimination against women in relation to work” that SMCG monitored court cases of gender-based discrimination against women at the basic courts in Podgorica, Kotor, Bijelo Polje, Niksic and Kolasin.
“The sample we had was 29 court cases. It is not a representative sample, but it has illuminated some phenomena and tendencies for us. The highest number of cases of gender-based discrimination against women was in Podgorica -18, in the Basic Court in Kotor there were five, and two in the basic courts in Bijelo Polje, Niksic and Kolasin”, said Zaric.
The average duration of proceedings in these 29 cases is a little over a year, said Zaric, stating that the Basic Court in Bijelo Polje was the most efficient, and that the longest case lasted four years and was conducted at the Basic Court in Podgorica.
“When it comes to employers who women sue for gender-based discrimination at work, there are more of them in the private sector, which has somewhat confirmed the perception of private employers as those who more often violate women’s labor rights. It is more often ruled in favor of employers than in favor of women at the basic courts. That percentage is about 59 percent in favor of employers and 41 percent in favor of plaintiffs”, said Zaric.
Monitoring of court cases, she said, showed that the higher court usually upheld the verdict of the basic court.
“Almost every case we analyzed was judged by different judges, so we concluded that there is no specialization of judges in this area, which would be desirable. Of the 29 cases, in only two can we say that the claim is directly related to gender-based discrimination. In all other cases, we indirectly linked the fact that the plaintiff is a woman”, said Zaric.
She said that the survey conducted by SMCG showed that gender-based discrimination at work exists, and that it is perceived as a widespread phenomenon in society, but that it is not reported.
“Two thirds of the respondents believe that gender discrimination in the workplace exists in Montenegro. However, when you ask these respondents whether you or someone from your environment has been a victim of gender discrimination in the workplace, the percentage decreases. The percentage decreases even more when you ask them if a case has been reported. As many as 92 percent of these cases remain unreported”, said Zaric.
She pointed out that one of the biggest reasons for not reporting cases is the fear of dismissal, fear of the employer.
Speaking about the recommendations, Zaric assessed that it is necessary to establish a database or register of cases of gender-based discrimination at work, which would be managed by institutions that deal with this problem.
“This would greatly facilitate future research, planning and action strategies, both by institutions and the non-governmental sector, academic staff and researchers. At the moment, such a base is owned only by the Ombudsman “, stated Zaric.
The Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Rights, Maja Raicevic, pointed out that there is a great need for support services when it comes to gender discrimination in the field of labor and employment, stating that the existing institutional mechanisms are insufficient and that a more proactive attitude of labor inspection is needed. monitoring these cases.
“The first research conducted by our organization was completed in 2018. The conclusions were presented to decision makers. This year, we are conducting a new, large research that will also include the data presented by SMCG”, said Raicevic.
The participants agreed that these data will be very important for the competent institutions, because this is the first research that registered gender-based discrimination at work in court judgments.
Raicevic warned that the coronavirus pandemic has further aggravated the situation when it comes to gender discrimination in the field of work and employment.
Legal expert Ivana Mihajlovic assessed that judicial and other relevant bodies are not sensitized enough to conduct proceedings related to gender-based discrimination in the workplace.
“Employed women are not encouraged enough because there is not enough positive and other court practice on the protection of such cases. On the other hand, as a society, we are otherwise burdened with various prejudices and stereotypes, so that is one of the reasons why discrimination is not reported”, said Mihajlovic.
She believes that the most important thing is to encourage women to start talking about the problem.
Speaking about the cases for which she provided free legal aid to women, Mihajlovic said that they most often referred to the reduction of earnings, illegal termination of employment and mobbing.
The Vice President of the Media Union of Montenegro, Radomir Krackovic, said that the organization has been implementing the project “Equality through Justice: Cases of Discrimination against Women in Work” since January last year, stating that it has carried out activities related to providing free legal aid. assistance and legal advice to women who are victims of discrimination at work and an analysis of court proceedings in which women sued employers for discrimination at work.
Monitoring court cases has helped SMCG to make important recommendations for domestic institutions.
“The general goal of the project is to reduce gender-based discrimination at work, and the project provided important knowledge that we can use in the fight for a better position of employees in the media, with a special emphasis on women,” said Krackovic.
The representative of the Ombudsman Institution, Dina Knezevic, reminded that during 2015, that institution implemented a similar project as SMCG, stating that the sample was small.
“What we faced then, and I see now, is that the judicial authorities do not recognize and do not distinguish between discrimination and mobbing. Mobbing was regulated by the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination until 2014, since then it is no longer and is considered a special institute. I also recognize that statistics is a big problem in this area of discrimination and gender discrimination”, Knezevic said.
The president of the Basic Court in Podgorica, Zeljka Jovovic, said that the issue of specialization of judges has been raised for a long time, stating that it is difficult to harmonize all the obligations that judges have, but that they will work on it.
The representative of the Union of Employers of Montenegro, Zvezdana Oluic, pointed out that the principles of equality and non-discrimination must be applied in one organization in relation to all employees, regardless of the level to which that employee belongs.
The event was organized with the support of the European Union and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.