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Damages for dismissed religion teacher

The District Court for Poznań-Grunwald and Jeżyce in Poznań ruled that the dismissal of Piotr Janowicz, a religious teacher who also taught history, had been unlawful. The Court found that the school administration had taken advantage of a special and simplified dismissal procedure for religion teachers in order to deprive the teacher of trade union protection and terminate his employment. At the request of the HFHR Mr Janowicz was represented pro bono by lawyers from Chajec, Don-Siemion & Żyto Sp. k. and Justyna Klimek, a legal advisor trainee with Bartoszewska Binkowski Sp. k. The HFHR observed the proceedings.

Mr Janowicz was taken on as a religion teacher at J.J. Śniadeccy Food Industry Schools Complex in Poznań. However, for several years he had also been teaching history, as part of his other responsibilities. During his last year of service, Mr Janowicz was almost entirely occupied with teaching history. At the same time, he was granted special trade union protection, which prevented his dismissal without the trade union’s approval.

At the request of the school’s headmaster, a bishop revoked an official permission to teach religion at the school issued to Mr Janowicz. The school administration claims that the revocation of the teacher’s delegation to teach religion obliged them to terminate his employment in accordance with the provisions of the Teacher’s Charter, irrespective of any trade union protection provided to the same.

“The Court decided that to assess the lawfulness of our client’s dismissal he should be treated as a history teacher and hence termination of his employment should be done in accordance with the dismissal procedure applicable to all and not only religion teachers. In the court’s opinion dismissal of Mr Janowicz as a religion teacher was groundless and had not been consulted with the trade union, whose member he was. Thus, the termination of Mr Janowicz’s employment violated the law and such violation justified an award of damages”, says Mr Piotr Kryczek, a partner with Chajec, Don-Siemion i Żyto.

“The Court noted that the revocation of delegation to teach religion was used by the school as a means to an end because otherwise the dismissal of this teacher would not be possible. The Court considered such behaviour of the employer to have been in contravention of the principles of public policy and amounted to an abuse of law”, adds Jarosław Jagura, the HFHR’s lawyer.

“Mr Janowicz’s case is part of a bigger problem of unequal treatment of religion teachers with regard to the protection of employment relationship. This case involved an attempt to exclude religion teachers from the protection of trade unions. Another case we worked on involved a pregnant religion teacher who was dismissed from work and the issue of interpretation of the Teacher’s Charter. In the school’s opinion, the Charter allowed for termination of religion teachers employment, though it is not the case for teachers of other subjects. As long as religion teachers work at public schools they should be treated in the same way as all other teachers”, explains Dorota Pudzianowska, Coordinator of the HFHR’s Article 32 Anti-discrimination Programme.

The case has been conducted as part of this programme.

The judgment is not final.

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