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Religion au travail

The Russian Labour Code specifies in Article 3, entitled “Ban on discrimination in the workplace”, that “no-one shall be discriminated against or privileged in their rights and freedoms in the workplace on the grounds of...their attitude to religion...or other circumstances having no relation to the professional skills of the employee”. There is no practical application of this provision in case law, which has, however, ruled on other grounds for discrimination.

The law “on freedom of conscience and religious associations” states in Article 24 that “religious organisations have the right to enter into employment contracts with employees. (…) Employees of religious organisations, as well as ministers of religion, are subject to social security, social insurance and pension insurance, in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation”.

Chapter 54 of the Labour Code is entitled “Details of the regulation of labour in religious organisations”. Under Article 342 of this chapter, the minimum age of an employee is 18 years (in general, it is 16 years). Article 343 allows religious organisations to include clauses in the employment contract that relate to the rights and duties of the contracting parties based on their internal law (canonical rules, ecclesiastical traditions etc.). These clauses cannot be contrary to the Labour Code and other federal laws.

Under Article 347, religious organisations have, as employers, the right to include in the employment contract supplementary grounds (in addition to those provided for in the Labour Code) for dismissing an employee. The list of these is not fixed by the Labour Code ; each religious organisation may define them freely and, for example, justify a dismissal on the grounds of the employee converting to another religion or of blasphemous or impious conduct. Under the aforementioned Article 3 of the Labour Code, which prohibits religious discrimination, the possibility of including such conditions in contracts of employment or of dismissing employees on such grounds is not available to other employers.

So far, the law has remained silent with regard to the right of religious organisations to require from a job applicant a pre-determined religious affiliation (which is explicitly prohibited for other categories of employers). A draft law allowing religious organisations to determine requirements for employee recruitment based on their internal rules and regulations was presented before the Duma (lower house of the Russian Parliament) in 2013.

Russian law offers religious organisations the freedom to determine their working relationships with ministers of religion. They have the right to enter into employment contracts with them and, in such cases, ministers of religion are considered to be employees and subject to the rules of the Labour Code. This is the usual practice for most religious minorities – Muslims, Protestants. But ministers of the Orthodox faith, who form the majority in Russia, are not employees of the religious organisation and have no employment contract. For this reason, disputes between an Orthodox priest and his superior - his “employer” (the parish, bishop or Church) - do not fall under the jurisdiction of state courts. Orthodox ministers receive their remuneration from the parish (as a legal entity), but this payment is not considered a salary by the Labour Code.

D 23 mai 2013    AMikhaïl Chakhov

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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