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Non-Discrimination and Victimization Laws in the United Arab Emirates

On Behalf of | Jun 26, 2023 | Dubai, Employment Law |

The United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) has introduced both onshore as well as in the Dubai International Financial Centre Free Zone (the “DIFC”) a series of equality, discrimination, and harassment provisions under its respective employment laws. Fast on the heels of the Jagruti Rajput award against Commerzbank before a London Tribunal, Commerzbank AG, also located in the DIFC, was allegedly compelled in May 2023 to conclude a significant settlement agreement with a  former employee as a result of allegations of discrimination based on race at the workplace. The alacrity with which Commerzbank concluded this settlement agreement attests to the seriousness with which these UAE anti-discrimination laws will  be applied in this jurisdiction. As reported in March 2023 by Reuters, a female former Commerzbank compliance officer was awarded 300,685 pounds ($368,880) after winning a sex and maternity discrimination and harassment claim in a London tribunal following a near seven-year battle against the German bank.

The following is a brief note on the equality, discrimination, harassment, and bullying provisions under the respective UAE and DIFC Employment Laws. The relevant laws are:  (1) the Federal Decree-Law No. 33 of 2021 on Regulation of Labor Relations (the “UAE Labor Law”); and (2) the Dubai Financial Centre Employment Law Amendment Law DIFC Law No. 4 of 2021

(1) UAE Labor Law

Article 4 – Equality and Non-discrimination 

This Article sets out that:

  • All forms of discrimination whether on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national or social origin, or disability is prohibited in the workplace.
  • Employees undertaking the same job must be treated equally.
  • Promoting a UAE National is not discriminatory.
  • Men and women should be paid the same salary if they are undertaking the same work or work of equivalent value.

Article 14 – Prohibition of Forced Labor and other Prohibitions

In addition to prohibiting forced labor,  this article prohibits the employer and an employee’s colleagues/managers from sexually harassing and or bullying the employee whether orally, physically or psychologically.

(2) DIFC Employment Law

Part 9: Non-Discrimination

Article 59 – Discrimination 

  • This Article sets out that the employer must not discriminate against an employee in respect of their employment or any term of employment on the grounds of sex, marital status, race, nationality, age, pregnancy and maternity, religion or mental or physically disability.
  • What constitutes discrimination and how discriminatory acts can be made out is provided for under Article 59(2) and 59(4).
  • Disability discrimination is also more fully described under Article 59(8).

Article 60 – Victimization 

  • This Article sets out that an employer must not victimize an employee.
  • What constitutes victimization and what is considered a protected act is provided for under Article 60(2).

Article 61 – Proceedings under Part 9

  • The Article sets out among other things, the limitation period for bringing claims under Part 9 of the DIFC Employment Law, the burden of proof and guidance on the  amount of compensation that may be awarded by the Court.