Landmark judgment on HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace
11 October 2013
In the first ever case relating to HIV/AIDS discrimination in the workplace, I.B. v. Greece, the European Court of Human Rights held that the dismissal of an HIV-positive worker in response to workforce pressure violated human rights. The applicant was represented by the Co-Directors of the UCL Institute for Human Rights, Dr George Letsas and Dr Virginia Mantouvalou.
The case concerned an employee, I.B., who was dismissed from his job in the private sector, when colleagues found out that he had HIV. They refused to work with him, demanding his dismissal. The employee challenged the dismissal as unlawful. However, the Greek Court of Cassation upheld the dismissal on the ground that it was not motivated by hostility towards his HIV status on the part of the employer, but by the need to ensure the peaceful running of the business.
Speaking about the case the Co-Directors said: “We are delighted that the Court, in a unanimous judgment, found a violation of human rights. This is a landmark case, recognizing the need to protect workers with HIV/AIDS from discrimination as a matter of human rights law. Business efficiency cannot serve as an excuse for tolerating any discrimination towards workers with HIV/AIDS, whether it is discrimination coming from the employer, the co-workers or the customers. There is widespread discrimination and social exclusion in Europe towards persons with HIV/AIDS and states have positive obligations to take action.”