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Dismissal of HIV-positive employee in response to colleague pressure breached human rights

In IB v Greece, IB told three colleagues he had contracted HIV. Those colleagues wrote to the employer saying IB had AIDS and should be dismissed. The information spread quickly throughout the organisation, but despite a doctor trying to reassure everyone by explaining the precautions to be taken, 33 employees wrote to the employer asking that IB be dismissed in order to preserve their health and right to work, and because the workplace's 'harmonious atmosphere' was at risk. ID was dismissed. The Greek Court of Cassation (GCC), held that dismissal was not wrongful where it was justified by the employer's interests, such as the restoration of harmonious collaboration between employees or the company's 'smooth functioning'. IB lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) arguing a breach of his human rights.

The ECtHR found that IB had been a victim of discrimination on account of his being HIV-positive. The dismissal in response to pressure from IB’s colleagues was a breach of Article 8 (the right to a private life) taken together with Article 14 (prohibition on discrimination when exercising other rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The GCC had accepted that IB's illness had no adverse effect on the fulfilment of his employment contract but had nonetheless based their decision to reject his complaint about his dismissal on clearly inaccurate information, namely the contagious nature of his illness. In doing so, the GCC had accepted the employees' biased and mistaken view of what was required to ensure the smooth functioning of the company and had failed to strike the correct balance, or to provide an adequate explanation, of how the employer's interests outweighed those of IB.

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