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TC partially strikes down Catalonia’s Equality Law

The Court has suspended the articles that regulated equality schemes at work, sexual harassment and equality officers in the workplace

All aspects to do with gender equality in the workplace will be dropped from Catalonia’s Equality Law. The Spanish Constitutional Court (TC) has agreed to dismiss the Catalan government’s appeal and will not overturn the suspension of the articles that regulated equality schemes at work, sexual and gender harassment, and the post of trade union representative for equality, among others.

The Spanish court has given two arguments to maintain the suspension on this part of the law, which was approved by the Catalan parliament in 2015. Firstly, it believes that some of its articles infringe upon the powers of the State and, secondly, it claims that the Spanish government has already legislated such matters. Specifically, the articles that have been struck down are numbers 33, 36, 39, 40 and 44.

Speaking for ARA, the Catalan government’s Director of Equality, Mireia Mata, complained that the TC’s ruling against the government’s appeal throws a spanner in the works for the deployment of equality plans and other labour schemes in Catalonia. Mata remarked that “the Court has ruled that we have no authority to create a new figure —the Equality Officer— for unionised companies because collective bargaining is legislated by the central government in Madrid”.

Still, Mata argues that the Catalan government will likely explore “alternative ways” to achieve its objectives in the field of equality at work. “We don’t intend to give up”, she added.

The Catalan law makes provisions for the creation of Equality Agents in companies, whose job will be to ensure that businesses comply with the law. This scheme has not been implemented yet “for financial reasons” and not “because of a court ruling”, emphasised Mata.

An unprecedented law

Last May the Constitutional Court imposed a cautionary suspension on Catalonia’s Equality Law following a formal complaint lodged by the Spanish government. It was the first law ever approved in Catalonia that sought to regulate equality between men and women in several areas, including in the workplace.

The law encompasses several areas of government and society, in the public as well as the private sphere, and it covers a range of violations and offences leading to penalties and fines. It was passed in July 2015 by all the political parties represented in parliament, although the PP, Ciudadanos and Unió lawmakers objected to a number of issues in the bill. For instance, the PP opposed all points that asserted a woman’s right to her own body, while Ciudadanos objected to making any provisions for gender parity quotas.

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