Industrial Relations Tribunal, Vera Sapevski, Velika Trajkosta, Cvetanka Levnarovska, Todonka Ristevska, Mirian Morales, Rosa Sagredo and Myriam Araneda v. Katies Fashions, 8 July 1997, IRC No. 219/97

Protection against discrimination in employment and occupation
Role of International Law:
Use of international law as a guide for interpreting domestic law
Type of instruments used:

Ratified treaty;1 Work of international supervisory bodies2

Discrimination on the grounds of sex/ Employees dismissed/ Use of international law to determine whether national law prohibited indirect discrimination/ Use of international as a guide for interpreting domestic law

Several women employees had been dismissed following the relocation of the distribution centre of an undertaking to premises with plant and equipment allowing faster and more efficient work. Several of the women brought action to challenge their dismissal, claiming that it was discriminatory on grounds of sex and thus violated section 170 DF(1) of the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (hereafter “the Act”).3

In order to adjudicate this case, the Industrial Relations Tribunal first had to determine whether section 170 DF(1) of the Act prohibited indirect discrimination. To answer this question it based its interpretation on ILO Convention No. 111 concerning Discrimination (Employment and Occupation), since section 170 CA(1) of the Act established that that Act had in fact been adopted in order to give effect to the Convention. The Tribunal also relied on a General Survey of the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations clarifying the purpose of that instrument. That study established that ILO Convention No. 111 prohibited both direct and indirect discrimination: “Any discrimination - in law or in practice, direct or indirect - falls within the scope of the 1958 instruments.”4

Drawing on these various elements of international law, the Industrial Relations Tribunal concluded that the Industrial Relations Act prohibited indirect discrimination. The dismissals were declared illegal.

1 ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111).

2 ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.

3 Section 170 DF(1) of the Act: “An employer must not terminate an employee’s employment  for any or more of the following reasons: (…) sex, (…).”

Full text of the decision