Though working in the Czech Republic is quite similar to the states, there are certain economic or political dissimilarities that diverge and shape the way business is conducted. While I have previously discussed how the low unemployment rate and differing economic standing have effected the recruiting industry, limiting the talent pool and challenging recruiters to find ways to incentivize people outside of the country to work here despite relatively low wages and complicated work visa laws, the differing labor laws have been the most apparent and sometimes upsetting difference to me. As some who strives to be aware of the labor laws in the U.S. and as an HR major and someone who passionately cares about equality both within and outside of the workplace, it was a bit of a shock to see what employers can legally do in the Czech Republic.
One of the reasons I initially started HR, was to enact policy that would ensure a more diverse and inclusive work environment and hopefully eliminate workplace discrimination. While there are many labor laws that work to ensure this inclusion in the United States, from what I have experienced, these laws are very limited here. For instance, affirmative action is virtually non-existent. While the Czech Republic was to pass anti-discriminations laws as a stipulation of its admittance into the EU, thus far they have not done so—something for which they have recently faced lawsuits. Although they moved to pass an affirmative action bill in 2004 and later in 2008, the bill was vetoed both times, for politicians did not want to support the education and employment of the Roma population in the Czech Republic; yet, what I have found most disturbing is the lack of protection for underprivileged or minority groups.
In the Czech Republic, at least what I have experienced (I am not sure if it is legal but it is certainly not enforced if it is illegal) is that is perfectly fine not to employ someone on the basis of sex, ability, race, age, etc. I experienced this the first time this week as I found a highly qualified candidate for an accounting position, but when she was presented to the client, they rejected her because they were looking for someone younger. It is also very common for women to be the first ones to be fired (or not hired in the first place) if they have children or are planning on having children. This plan for children is one of many things that employers can ask potential candidates that would not be tolerated in the United State. Some of these things that would not be discussed in the U.S. are even openly shared on individuals CVs, with many showing information such as age and relationship status.
The Czech Republic also remains among the worst countries for gender inequality in the workplace. The pay gap is large and sexual harassment is often seen as a joke. Although I fortunately have not experienced this myself, as I work in an office of entirely women, some of my friends have experienced sexism in the workplace. For instance, one friend had a safety instruction video about how women were not allowed to lift more than 10 KGs. Fortunately, none of us have experienced any truly offensive behavior though.
All in all what I have gathered is that Czech people really value their liberty and ability to say what they want even if this sometimes may be offensive or in some cases threaten others equality. While my personal beliefs differ, it has been interesting to observe this difference and how it affects the workplace, especially since I feel as though this has been becoming a more pervasive issue in American politics as well recently.