SWEDEN: Ford-owned Volvo convicted of gender discrimination

By just-auto.com editorial team | 22 September 2005

A Swedish court has convicted Ford-owned Volvo Cars of gender discrimination for denying a woman a job at its manufacturing plant because she was too short to work at the conveyor belt, according to an Associated Press (AP) report.

AP said Sweden's Labour Court ordered Volvo to pay 40,000 kronor ($US5,200) to the woman, who was not identified, saying the hiring policy constituted "indirect gender discrimination."

The report said Volvo's hiring policy stated that for safety reasons, employees must be between 5 feet 4 inches and 6 feet 5 inches to work at the conveyor belt at its car manufacturing plant outside Goteborg. The woman only measured 5 feet 3 inches, said Equal Opportunity Ombudsman Claes Borgstrom, who sued Volvo on the woman's behalf.

According to AP, the court ruled that that statistically, the height requirement excluded more women than men, and should therefore be considered as gender discrimination.

"The consequence (of the ruling) must be that Volvo cannot routinely continue to automatically exclude people who are shorter than 163 centimetres (5 feet 4 inches) from employment," Borgstrom reportedly said in a statement. "Instead, they will have to make an individual judgment of the applicants' physical conditions for the job, for example span of reach and muscle strength."

Volvo spokesman Christer Gustafsson told the Associated Press the company will follow the court's ruling and drop the height requirement. "We will have to look at what we can do to avoid job injuries without the height requirement."

He reportedly said the height requirement was adopted four years ago to prevent strain injuries.

"Those who are too short or too tall will then have to reach a lot, or bend down a lot," he told the Associated Press.