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Examination of cases by Cyprus Office of the Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman)

July 16th 2015

In Cyprus, the Office of the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights issued three reports following examination of discrimination cases in the field of goods and services and employment.

AKP 44/2010 to AKP 62/2014 - Racial/ethnic discrimination in relation to the provision of services of companies that provide telephone and internet services

The Report (29/6/2015) was submitted to three companies that provide telephone and internet services, following the examination of eight complaints filed with the Anti-Discrimination Authority that non-Cypriots or non-residents of Cyprus had to pay higher deposits during their access to these services compared to Cypriots. The Ombudsman examined the legal and institutional EU and national framework providing for protection against direct and indirect discrimination on the ground of racial or ethnic origin in the area of access to goods and services and also for the protection from discrimination on the ground of nationality of EU citizens exercising their right of free movement within the EU. It was found that the policy of one of the companies that required an additional deposit from subscribers who are not Cypriot citizens amounts to direct discrimination against EU citizens on the basis of nationality. With regard to the policy applied by the other two companies, requiring higher deposits from subscribers who are non-permanent residents of Cyprus, the Ombudsman found that it amounts to indirect discrimination against EU citizens with regard to their nationality. In particular, although the differentiation of subscribers between permanent and non-permanent residents in order to reduce credit risk was, as per the Report, “objectively justified”, the practice also had to be compatible with the basic principles of necessity and appropriateness that were cited in the Report. The Ombudsman invited the companies to take into account her observations and recommendations to end the discriminatory practices set out in the Report.

AKI 52/2014 – Age discrimination regarding the requirements for Airport security recruitment

Following an individual complaint, the Equality Authority produced a Report (18/6/2015) recommending that the maximum age requirement of 55 years stipulated in the 3-year recruitment contracts of the Civil Aviation Department for private security services purchase, was abolished. The complaint concerned an experienced 59-year-old female candidate, whose application was rejected only by reference to her age, following her success at the relevant interview and test applied. The Equality Authority found that the aforesaid requirement gave rise to age discrimination under the European directive (2000/78/EC) –and corresponding national legal framework- as it has been interpreted by the Luxembourg jurisprudence on age discrimination in access to employment. In particular, special emphasis was laid on the application of the principle of proportionality as demonstrated in the decisions in Wolf and Pérez calling for a careful balance between the anti-discrimination rule and the exceptions applicable to established genuine and determining occupational requirements. — In more detail, the Ombudsman took into account all information set out by the Civil Aviation Department regarding the physical requirements/skills of security officers as well as the allocation of duties between the private security officers and the policemen in the Airport and commented that attention should be made to a generalized, stereotypical link between age and the particular job duties. She concluded that the legitimate aim of a genuine and determining occupational requirement was not convincingly established, neither were the measures forwarded through the age limit appropriate, proportional or necessary. Following this Report, the Civil Aviation Department has informed the Equality Body of its agreement to remove the maximum age requirement in question, so as to end the discriminatory practice found.

AKP 93/2012 – Age requirements in relation to public subsidy for medical expenses

A Report was concluded on the above subject (5/6/2015) following an older finding of the Anti-Discrimination Authority, for direct age discrimination occurring as a result of the maximum age requirement (65 years) set out in a scheme for financial aid (Report submitted to the Ministry of Health in November 2011) regarding, in particular, applications for coverage of expenses of patients needing to undergo a robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy. The link of age discrimination, in this content, with the right to health and the right for respect of private and family life was made, especially its expression through the right to a sexual life. The latest Report was triggered both by a complaint against an inconsistent application of the aforesaid criticised age limit, as well as by the decision of the Ministry to eventually lift the age requirement in the scheme, in 2015. The Ombudsman acknowledged this positive development but considered it necessary to stress the need to end all discriminatory practices and age requirements in the area of public health services, so as to abandon prejudice and stereotypes against the elderly (ageism) together with the idea of an approach of disdain towards the elderly, that frequently leads to undesirable social exclusion. In line with this, the Ombudsman invited the Ministry to adopt a culture of respect of human rights irrespective of all characteristics not reasonably and objectively related to the state of health during the provision of health services and to make sure that health professionals are not directly or indirectly affected by stereotypical perceptions about age.