Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School - Green Background

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  • Madam F v SA Schenk, Belgium, Labour Court of Appeal Brussels, 2009.
    A female employee was dismissed with severance pay due to a period of incapacity resulting from two consecutive miscarriages.  In the circumstances of the case, it was not possible to apply article 40 (protection against dismissal for pregnant women) of the Labour Law of 16 March 1971, because the employer was not informed of the pregnancy. However, because the dismissal followed right after the second miscarriage, the female employee was discriminated against based on her sex.  This was not refuted by the employer. Given the timing of the events and the timing of the termination of the employment relationship, the dismissal violated the law of 7 May 1991 on equal treatment for men and women with regard to working conditions, access to employment, and promotion, access to independent professions and supplementary social security schemes. This law does not provide for a fixed amount of damages. The moral damages were estimated at EUR 5,000.
  • ARY v International Association of the European Labor Institute, Belgium, Labor Court of Appeal, 2004.
    A female employee claimed that she was discriminated against with regard to her salary at the time of her recruitment and subsequently as she became more senior in the company.  She argued that she was granted a lower salary at the beginning of her employment than male employees with equal qualifications and that she was not later granted a higher salary in the same way as male employees who received such higher salary only based on their seniority.The Court of first instance rejected the claims of the female employee. On appeal however, the Court applied the case “Danfoss” (Court of Justice, 109/88 of 17.10.1989) to the case at hand.  Regarding her salary at the time of the beginning of the employment, it ruled that there was no discrimination. However, in terms of the subsequent increase of the salary, the Court held that there was indeed discrimination.
  • Cour de Cassation de Belgique No. P.04.0595.F, Belgium, Cour de Cassation, 2004.
    The Cour de Cassation held that a finding of rape does not preclude a finding of indecent assault. The court therefore rejected an appeal for lowering the appellant's sentence and stated that the finding of the lower court of indecent assault added to the gravity of the crime of rape.
  • Cour d'appel, Bruxelles No. 96AR1629, Belgium, Court of Appeal, 1998.
    With regard to the marriage of persons of different nationality Belgian courts will ordinarily look to the national statutes governing each person to determine whether the conditions of marriage have been met.  Here, however, the Court refused to look to Algerian law to determine whether the conditions for marriage had been met when called upon to decide whether the marriage between an Algerian Muslim woman and an Italian non-Muslim man could be declared null.  The Brussels Court of Appeal stated that Algerian law, which includes the prohibition for a Muslim woman marrying a non-Muslim, must be rejected as being contrary to international public policy as it results in discrimination regarding the freedom of marriage based on gender and/or their religion.  The Court therefore refused to consider Algerian law with regard to the law applicable to both parties of the marriage.
  • Cour d’appel, Bruxelles No. 89/3060, Belgium, Court of Appeal, 1979.
    The Brussels Court of Appeal recognized marital rape and found that the husband who used serious violence to coerce his wife into having sex against her wishes was guilty of the criminal offense of rape.  Furthermore, this act was neither subject to bail nor to a defense of misunderstanding.
  • Case 43/75, Defrenne v Sabena [1976] ECR 455, Belgium, European Court of Justice, 1976.
    D worked as a flight attendant for the airline Sabena. The airline paid her less than her male colleagues who did the same work. The ECJ held that Article 119 of the Treaty of the European Community was of such a character as to have horizontal direct effect, and therefore enforceable not merely between individuals and the government, but also between private parties. Article 157 TFEU (119 TEEC, 141 TEC) was invoked which stated "Each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied".