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Victory of HFHR: dismissed religion teacher reinstated to work

The Regional Court in Poznań has ruled that Piotr Janowicz, a religion teacher and a trade union’s member, should be reinstated to the position of a history teacher. The Court also awarded Mr Janowicz the amount of his salary for the period out of work.

At the request of the HFHR, Mr Janowicz was represented pro bono by lawyers from Chajec, Don-Siemion & Żyto Sp. k., Mr Piotr Kryczek and Ms Weronika Papucewicz and also by Justyna Klimek, a legal advisor trainee with Bartoszewska Binkowski Sp. k. The HFHR has presented an amicus curiae brief to the Regional Court.

Trial court: dismissal unlawful

The District Court for Poznań-Grunwald and Jeżyce, which decided the case in the first instance, held that Mr Janowicz’s dismissal was unlawful. The Court assessed 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.

Despite finding the dismissal unlawful, the District Court held that his reinstatement to work would be unreasonable. The teacher and his counsel submitted an appeal to the Regional Court, requesting reinstatement.

History teacher fired under regulations on religion teachers

Mr Janowicz worked as a religion teacher at J.J. Śniadeccy Food Industry Schools Complex in Poznań.  For several years he had also been teaching history, as part of his other responsibilities. In 2014, 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 claim that in accordance with the provisions of the Teacher’s Charter, the revocation of the teacher’s delegation to teach religion obliged them to terminate his employment, irrespective of any trade union protection provided to the same.

Regional Court reinstates Piotr Janowicz to work

“The Regional Court confirmed that Piotr Janowicz had enjoyed special trade union protection against the termination of his employment as a history teacher because, despite having been formally delegated to teach religious education, he was teaching history full-time. At the same time, the Court ruled that there were no counter-indications to reinstating Piotr Janowicz to the post of a history teacher, says Mr Piotr Kryczek, a partner with Chajec, Don-Siemion i Żyto.

Weaker protection for religion teachers

“In its opinion presented to the Regional Court, the Foundation has noted that the interpretation of law that deprives religion teachers special protection of the stability of an employment relationship regardless of their union membership cannot be reconciled with the principle of equal treatment and the freedom of activities of trade unions, which is enshrined e.g. in the Polish Constitution. As long as religion teachers work at public schools they should be treated in the same way as all other teachers. Ultimately, the Regional Court did not share our point of view and ruled that religion teachers did not have a special protection for the stability of their employment in the event of a cancellation their official mission”, explains Jarosław Jagura, a lawyer working for the HFHR.

The case has been conducted as part of the “Article 32” anti-discrimination programme.

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