Three years to claim? Supreme Court in Poland opens door to claims for termination on discriminatory grounds
Employers in Poland should be aware of a recent landmark decision in the Supreme Court, which could allow employees to bring claims in respect of termination long after their employment has ended.
Short deadline overturned
Previous case law had suggested that employees could only claim unlawful termination by instigating an action within seven days of the termination. It was also suggested that if an employee did not bring such an action on time, he or she could not base his or her claims for damages on the grounds of unlawful termination of employment, including damages for discrimination, if the discriminatory factor was a reason for dismissal in the termination notice.
However, the Supreme Court held they were different claims based on different legal grounds, and not lodging an unlawful termination claim would not prevent an employee from submitting a discrimination damages claim, based on there being a discriminatory reason for termination.
The Supreme Court clarified that in the case of termination of employment for more than one reason, termination may be justified by reference to a non-discriminatory factor, while another reason may be discriminatory. This could result in an employee’s claim for unlawful termination of employment being dismissed but at the same time maintaining an entitlement to damages for discrimination.
The Supreme Court concluded the deadline for lodging a claim for unlawful termination of employment (seven days at the time of this decision, now 21 days) was too short to pursue claims for unequal treatment and discrimination and was contrary to EU law’s principle of effectiveness.
What does this mean for employers?
Employers will need to be more aware of serving a termination notice and terminating an employment contract as the recent decision enables employees to make claims long after their employment has been terminated. Employees may challenge their termination not only in the short 21 day period following dismissal, but also in the longer term, until the limitation period for making discrimination claims expires. In practice, this means that an employee will have three years to contemplate and decide whether to initiate an action for damages based on unlawful discrimination. Employers should take additional care in dismissing employees and seek advice where necessary.
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