The European Union’s highest court just ruled against a lawyer who was sued for job discrimination after he said that he would never hire a gay person, which means he will have to pay €10,000 (around $11,000) in damages.
The case concerns statements Italian lawyer Carlo Taormina made in 2013 on a radio show: “Homosexuals are abnormal, they have physical and genetic anomalies.”
Because of those “anomalies,” he won’t hire gay people, he said
The LGBTQ organization Rete Lenford filed a discrimination complaint against Taormina. He holds a senior position at a law firm, the group argued, which means that his statements weren’t just radio show bluster but actionable statements about his hiring practices.
He lost his trial in 2014, and appealed all the way to the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation, arguing that he was not speaking as an employer who was hiring but as a private citizen on the radio, so his statements fall outside the intent of the country’s anti-discrimination law.
Furthermore, his firm wasn’t hiring at the time, so he wasn’t technically involved in any hiring process when he was interviewed on the radio.
The EU Court of Justice rejected his arguments and upheld the Italian court’s decision. It said that he was “capable of exerting a decisive influence” on hiring, promotions, and other employment decisions at his firm and he was publicly describing “conditions for access to employment.”
“The link between those statements and the conditions for access to employment or occupation within the firm of lawyers concerned is not hypothetical,” the decisions read.
The court also said that, while free speech is a real concern, “freedom of expression is not an absolute right and its exercise may be subject to limitations,” as long as those limitations are proportional and advance another interest like fighting discrimination in the workforce.
His statements were “likely to deter the individuals targeted from applying for a post.”
Last, Taormina argued that a non-profit association doesn’t have standing to sue since it was not affected by his statements. But the court ruled that Italian law allows non-profits to sue in certain circumstances and EU law “in no way precludes a Member State” from giving that standing to a non-profit.
Also on Italian radio in 2013, Guido Barilla, the chairman of the pasta company of the same name, said that his company would never feature LGBTQ people in ads because “for us, the concept of the sacred family remains one of the fundamental values of the company.”
“I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose,” he said. “If the gays don’t like it they can go an eat another brand.”