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Dismissal of pregnant religious education teacher: judgment

The District Court for Kraków’s Nowa Huta entered the judgment in the case of Sylwia Zawlocka, the religious education teacher dismissed from work during pregnancy. The court dismissed Ms Zawlocka’s action, holding that the school where she worked could lawfully terminate her employment contract.

Sylwia Zawlocka was employed as a religious education teacher on the basis of an appointment. Formally, her employment was terminated on the grounds of the diocese bishop’s revocation of her individual delegation to provide religious education. The school administrators claim that this obliged them to terminate Ms Zawlocka’s employment in accordance with the provisions of the Teacher’s Charter. Dismissed teacher has brought an action for reinstatement to work and also sought compensation for the alleged violation of the principle of equal treatment in employment.

Article 177(1) of the Labour Code prohibits termination of pregnant women’s employment. Accordingly, the central issue of the case was whether or not a revocation of a delegation to provide religious education and the resulting loss of a license to teach means that the school’s headmaster had no other option but to dismiss the teacher from work irrespectively of the safeguards for working pregnant women established in the Labour Code. The counsel for Sylwia Zawlocka argued that the school, as an employer, was not allowed to dismiss their client and should have offered her a position other than a religious education teacher.

“By issuing this judgment, judges of the District Court decided that there is a special group of women who cannot rely on the laws which protect them against being terminated and dismissed from work during pregnancy. These are female teachers of religious education. This conclusion is difficult to accept, so we will appeal against the judgment”, says Marzanna Sobaniec, the advocate who was asked by the Foundation to represent Ms Zawlocka.

“The judgement means that teachers of religious education, including pregnant teachers, are not entitled to protection under the Labour Code. Paradoxically, this judgment means that the Teacher’s Charter, an instrument designed to enhance the protection awarded to appointed teachers, in this case limits the available protection as it excludes the application of the Labour Code to pregnant women”, Dr Dorota Pudzianowska, HFHR, says.

The case was conducted as part of the HFHR’s anti-discrimination programme “Article 32”. Ms Zawlocka’s counsel were Mr Daniel Jastrun and Ms Marzanna Sobaniec, advocates acting pro bono as a courtesy to the HFHR.

An appeal will be brought in the case.

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