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Introduction

The information contained on this page represents the situation as of 1 January 2014 and is a summary of the country report produced by the country expert from the network. The summary can be downloaded here as well.

Contact: 
Anhelita Kamenska
E-mail: angel@humanrights.org.lv

Country Context

Latviais, and always has been, a multi-ethnic country, although the proportion of the different ethnic groups among its population has varied.

Main principles and definitions

The Labour Law, Law on Prohibition of Discrimination of Natural Persons-Economic Operators, the Law on Social Security,[1] the Law on the Support to Unemployed Persons and Job Seekersand Consumer Rights Protection Law contain definitions of direct and indirect discrimination and harassment which comply with the directives; they also prohibit instruction to discriminate.

Enforcing the law

There are a number of legal avenues for addressing cases of discrimination:

  • Courts of general jurisdiction;
  • Constitutional Court; legislation which is allegedly discriminatory on the grounds of age has twice been challenged in it;
  • Possibility of submitting a complaint to the same public institution that has treated the person differently or to a higher institution;
  • State Labour Inspectorate if discrimination has occurred within the framework of a labour relationship; the inspectorate can impose a fine;
  • Ombudsman’s Office, which is empowered to strive for amicable settlement; it can file a complaint in an administrative court if it is in the public interest, or bring a case to the civil court if the issue is violation of equal treatment.

Main legislation

The cornerstone of the prohibition of discrimination is Article 91 of the Latvian Constitution providing, inter alia, that human rights shall be observed without discrimination of any kind. Thus, the Constitution outlaws all discrimination, but does not expressly state the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited. The Constitution is regarded as having direct effect, that is, it directly binds all public bodies, but it does not have horizontal effect. This means that while discrimination is illegal in the public sector even without any further laws, which are thus only needed to provide for sanctions and the enforcement of the principle of non-discrimination, in the private sector the introduction of special laws to outlaw discrimination is essential. The same applies to international treaties: the treaties binding on Latvia only bind the public bodies.

Material scope

The Labour Law provides protection against all forms of discrimination (direct, indirect, harassment, instruction to discriminate and victimisation) in all aspects of employment relationships, both in the public and private sector, including state civil service relationships (yet excluding military service) and contract work of self-employed persons, including the establishment of such relationships, concerning inter alia gender, race, age, disability, religion and sexual orientation.[1]

Equality bodies

Since March 2007 the tasks of the specialised body are performed by the Ombudsman’s Office which is entrusted with the task of promoting the observance of human rights, including the promotion of equal treatment – without listing the grounds of discrimination and thus encompassing all of them. Its functions include inquiring into any individual complaint related to human rights violation, starting investigations on its own initiative, analyzing the observance of human rights and issuing surveys and reports.

Go to the European Commission - Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities This initiative is financed by the EC Programme Progress. But the views expressed in this website do not necessarily reflect the official views of the EU institutions.