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Religions in the workplace in Romania

In a general sense, religious freedom in the field of labour relations is regulated, and fundamental rights guaranteed, by the Romanian constitution, the law on religious freedom and the general (...)

In a general sense, religious freedom in the field of labour relations is regulated, and fundamental rights guaranteed, by the Romanian constitution, the law on religious freedom and the general system for religious faiths, and the ordinance on preventing and tackling of all forms of discrimination. The religious rights of employees and the labour relations of religious ministers are specifically regulated by the Labour Code and the third section of the law on religious freedom and the general system for religious faiths (see below for a list of all these provisions).

The Labour Code states that "any direct or indirect discrimination against an employee based on [...] religion is prohibited". Among the aspects of employment that are specifically protected against religious discrimination are redundancy and conversion of the workforce to salaried work. The Labour Code also guarantees the same number of holidays associated with religious celebrations for members of all recognised religious faiths, whether Christian or non-Christian.

As regards religious staff, according to Article 23 of Law 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general system for religious faiths "religious bodies shall choose, appoint, hire or dismiss their staff in accordance with their own statutes, canonical codes or regulations". Therefore, relations between religious faiths and their staff are based on the provisions of the faiths’ own statutes and not on the legal rules imposed by the Labour Code. With the exception of one religious body, which uses the individual employment contract for its staff, the employees of all the other 17 recognised religious faiths have a relationship with their "employers" that involves providing services free-of-charge as a vocation, usually based on a confession of faith they are obliged to sign.

As regards religious staff who work in other institutions (hospitals, prisons, schools, etc.), the specific regulations of these institutions apply, but it is still necessary for the religious staff to obtain the consent of the religious body to which they belong in order to work in such institutions. In the event of serious violations of moral or religious doctrine, the religious body may withdraw its consent, which leads to cessation of such work. This is proof that legislators recognize the supremacy of faith-specific rules over labour law standards.

The most well-known case in which this state of affairs was challenged took place in 2008, when several priests and laymen from the Metropolis of Oltenia (Romanian Orthodox Church) decided to establish the Good Shepherd Union. The Romanian courts refused to register the Union because the concept of unions is alien to the status of the Church and violates the principle of ecclesiastical autonomy. Dissatisfied with these resolutions, the trade unionists brought the case to the ECHR, claiming a violation Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the freedom of association. Although the trade unionist priests prevailed in the first stage of proceedings, the Grand Chamber of the ECHR ultimately ruled in favour of the Romanian state and by default the Romanian Orthodox Church. In its decision (Case of Sindicatul "Păstorul cel bun" v. Romania), the ECHR confirmed that the professional specificities of the priesthood are incompatible with trade union action because the priesthood is a freely assumed vocation that the Church entrusts to those who have heeded its call.

A. The main laws that guarantee religious freedom in Romania:

1. Constitution of Romania (21 November 1991, amended in 2003), Art. 29.
2. Law 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general system for religious faiths, Articles 1 and 2.
3. Ordinance 137/31, August 2000 (with subsequent amendments) on preventing and tackling all forms of discrimination (with subsequent amendments).

B. Legal provisions relating to work and religion:

Labour Code (Law 53/24 January 2003 with subsequent amendments)
Article 5
(1) Within labour relations, the principle of equal treatment for all employees and employers is guaranteed.
(2) Any direct or indirect discrimination against an employee based on gender, sexual orientation, genetic characteristics, age, nationality, race, colour, religion, political opinion, social origin, disability, family status or responsibility, union membership or activity is prohibited.

Article 59
The dismissal of employees shall be prohibited: (a) based on gender, sexual orientation, genetic characteristics, age, nationality, race, colour, religion, political opinion, social origin, disability, family status or responsibility, trade union membership or activity.

Article 139
(1) Public holidays:
- 1 and 2 January – New Year
- 24 January – United Principalities Day
- first and second day of Easter
- 1 May – International Labour Day
- 1 June – International Children’s Day
- first and second day of Pentecost
- Assumption Day
- 30 November – Saint Andrew’s Day
- 1 December – Romanian National Day
- first and second day of Christmas
(2) two days for each of the three annual religious holidays, declared as such by the recognised religious faiths, other than Christian holidays, for persons belonging to these faiths.

Article 159 (3)
For the establishment and payment of wages, discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, genetic characteristics, age, nationality, race, colour, religion, political opinion, social origin, disability, family status or responsibility, trade union membership or activity is prohibited.

C. Religious ministers and labour law:

Law 489/2006 on religious freedom and the general system for religious faiths, Articles 23 to 26.

For more information on clergy labour relations see Emanuel Tăvală, "Law and religion in the workplace: Romanian Report", in RODRÍGUEZ BLANCO Miguel (ed.), Law and religion in the workplace, Proceedings of the XXVIIth annual conference of the European Consortium for Church and State Research, Alcalá de Henares, 12-15 November 2015, Granada, Comares, December 2016, p. 327-336.

D 22 February 2017    AGabriel Birsan

Non-Christian workers and days off

D 8 January 2019   

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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