The highest court in the European Union has ruled against Carlo Taormina, an Italian lawyer, who was being sued for “job discrimination”. Taormina had said that he would never hire a gay person as he believes homosexuals have “genetic anomalies” and therefore are unfit to work for him, was ordered to pay €10,000 in damages.
The case originated from comments Taormina made on a radio show back in 2013. During the show, he stated that homosexuals “are abnormal, they have physical and genetic anomalies”, and that he wouldn’t hire gay people to work for him due to those reasons.
As Taormina is a senior member of a law firm and could have the power to hire or dismiss potential employees, many people took these comments as more than just his personal views. Many thought they in fact spoke to his hiring practices, in which case they would be considered job discrimination.
The Italian LGBT+ organisation, Rete Lenford, took action against Taormina, filing a discrimination complaint against the lawyer for his homophobic statements. Although Taormina lost his trial in 2014, he appealed the case, which went all the way to the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation, citing that he was not speaking as an employer but as a private citizen when he made those comments on the radio show as well as arguing that his firm wasn’t even hiring at the time the interview aired.
Taormina hoped that this distinction would land him outside of Italy’s anti-discrimination laws, and thus he would be dismissed, however this was rejected by the EU Court of Justice and the initial court’s decision was upheld.
The court ruled that Taormina was “capable of exerting a decisive influence” within the firm when it came to employment decisions such as hiring and promoting other employees, and his statements described what he viewed as “conditions for access to employment” and therefore can be seen as workplace discrimination.
The court ultimately decided to fine Taormina €10,000 in damages for his statements. This is a small sense of justice for those who may have been previously refused employment or those who were deterred from seeking employment at the firm due to Taormina’s actions. Although there have been many similar cases before, the fact that this type of discrimination is not only being called out, but also punished by law, is a big step forward for LGBT+ rights in the workplace.
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