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Student to receive compensation for harassment – insulting comments by teacher during class


The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman promoted reconciliation in a discrimination case:

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has negotiated an agreement in an instance where a student was harassed by a teacher based on the student’s nationality. The teacher had inappropriately insulted Estonians in the presence of other students. As a result of the negotiations, the school apologised to the insulted student and paid her EUR 2000 in compensation for discrimination.

A teacher employed by Omnia, Joint Authority of Education in the Espoo region, Finland, was found guilty of discriminating against a student. During class, the teacher inappropriately commented on the characteristics and attitude of the people of the student's country of origin. The school intervened in the teacher's inappropriate language immediately and issued a supervisory sanction.

The student contacted the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman who found that the situation constituted discrimination prohibited in the Non-Discrimination Act. Based on the report received by the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, it was found that discrimination had occurred, and the matter was handled in cooperation with the school. Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kirsi Pimiä is happy with the actions of the school and would like to remind that, under the Non-Discrimination Act, educational institutions have a special responsibility to ensure that no harassment or discrimination occurs. Harassment must be handled effectively.

- It is especially serious when a teacher is harassing a student. In this case, the teacher used insulting expressions in front of other students, which is humiliating. Bullying doesn't only concern the victim. When something like this happens, the school must show the other students that the teacher's actions are not acceptable, states Non-Discrimination Ombudsman Kirisi Pimiä.

According to the Non-Discrimination Act, educational institutions are responsible for the harassment of students conducted by teachers.

One form of discrimination is harassment on the basis of origin, language, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or other personal characteristics. Harassment constitutes an expression that severely infringes the dignity of a person, creating a degrading or hostile environment towards the individual. The intent to offend is not required.

As an authority overseeing the Non-Discrimination Act, the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman may promote reconciliation by negotiating between the victim of discrimination and the discriminating party. In a written reconciliation agreement, Omnia apologises, commits to pay compensation to the student, and commits to evaluate practices so that similar situations will not happen again.

- For Omnia as a multicultural institution, a disturbance-free and safe working community and an open learning environment are the cornerstones of our practices. We take this very seriously, and we are dealing with this issue together with personnel and students, to discuss and learn together, says Omnia director Sampo Suihko.

According to the Non-Discrimination Act, all educational institutions are obligated to make a plan for the necessary measures promoting equality, including the necessary actions determined for each institution to prevent discrimination and promote equality. Omnia has an enforced plan for promoting equality.

The Ombudsman finds it important for schools to take instances of harassment seriously and invest in preventative measures.


Non-Discrimination Act:

Section 14 Harassment

The deliberate or de facto infringement of the dignity of a person is harassment, if the infringing behaviour relates to a reason referred to in section 8(1), and as a result of the reason, a degrading or humiliating, intimidating, hostile or offensive environment towards the person is created by the behaviour.

An employer's actions are to be considered discrimination if the employer, after having been informed that an employee in their employment was subjected to harassment as referred to in subsection 1, neglects to take action to remove the harassment.

Section 23 Compensation

A person who has been discriminated against or victimised is entitled to receive compensation from the authority, employer or education provider or supplier of goods or services who has discriminated against or victimised the person contrary to this Act.