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Belgian company convicted for sacking woman who had abortion
A Belgian company has been convicted for terminating the employment of a woman after she had an abortion – a first for Belgium, according to the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (IEFH).
An employment tribunal ruled against the company, which operates in the healthcare sector, finding that the dismissal constituted discrimination on the grounds of sex.
The employee had informed her employer of her pregnancy and her intention to terminate it.
A few days after the operation, her employment contract was unilaterally terminated for "breach of trust" and on the grounds that the employee's performance was declining. The woman later contacted the IEFH to make a case for unfair dismissal.
The employer tried to refer to an alleged performance review that had taken place a few days before the abortion and to the fact that there had been no subsequent improvement in the employee's performance.
During the legal proceedings, the company relied on testimonies from several superiors to demonstrate that the employee was not performing well.
But “both the timing of the dismissal and the absence of any other serious assessment of the employee point to a link between the dismissal and the termination of the pregnancy”, the IEFH said.
“The former employer did not provide any objective evidence to support the grounds for dismissal put forward, and the court found the testimonies too vague and even unreliable.”
A labour court in Flanders agreed, ruling that the dismissal was motivated by the abortion and therefore constituted discrimination on the grounds of sex.
“The judge has sent out a clear message: women cannot be dismissed because they may become pregnant without wanting to and decide to terminate their pregnancy,” said Michel Pasteel, Director of the IEFH.
Photo: An abortion rights protest in Brussels in 2017