Friday, 28 December 2007

Spain sets Penalties for Discrimination Against People with Disabilities

People with disabilities in Spain have had a welcome gift The Spanish government has recently published the Law 49/2007, of 26 December, which sets out “a regime of infractions and penalties relating to equal opportunities, non-discrimination and universal accessibility for people with disabilities”. Properly applied by plaintiffs and judiciary this could give real teeth to the different pieces of legislation passed in recent years.

The law complements any penalties at the regional level (Spain has an increasingly decentralised structure of government) as the nation's constitution assigns to national government the responsibility for “basic conditions for ensuring the equality of Spaniards in the exercise of their rights and the fulfilment of their constitutional duties.” It sets out the general guidelines for penalties at the regional level. It is also based on European Community provisions that require national governments to implement penalties for non-compliance with anti-discrimination legislation. Since the 1982 law on the integration of people with disabilities there has been a succession of laws. The latest provisions are intended to change the approach from that of protecting a minority in need of special care, to that of people who have difficulties in exercising their rights and obligations under the constitution.

The law provides for fines of 301 up to a million Euro, classifying violations as slight, serious and very serious. In the four years following the passing of the law the government is required to present a report to parliament on actions taken and plans for the following year.

The text of the law is available in Spanish in the online version of the Boletn Oficial del Estado, LEY 49/2007, de 26 de diciembre.