Prosecutors have decided to charge a human resources manager at IKEA for violating the religious rights of an employee who was last year fired for making homophobic remarks, including quoting biblical passages suggesting that gay people deserve to be killed.
The remarks by the employee, referred to as Tomasz K. under Polish privacy laws, came in response to IKEA encouraging employees to participate in an LGBT-rights campaign. His dismissal prompted anger among conservatives, including Poland’s prosecutor general, Zbigniew Ziobro, who called the decision “absolutely scandalous”.
Following a year-long investigation, the Warsaw-Praga District Prosecutor’s Office has now decided to charge the IKEA manager responsible for Tomasz K’s dismissal, saying that he “committing the offence of limiting an employee’s rights on the grounds of religion”.
The prosecutors’ spokesman, Marcin Saduś, says that the decision to dismiss Tomasz K. “was the result of an arbitrary assessment and the prejudice of [the manager] towards the employee who, in expressing his views, referred to Christian values”, reports Wprost.
Prosecutors argue that the verses from the Bible that Tomasz K. quoted were “not an attack on a specific person from among his colleagues, but a response to the employer’s action”. They note that the Polish constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, religion and expression.
“If a man lies with a male, they shall surely be put to death”
The controversy began when IKEA published a document on its intranet supporting International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. It called on employees to show solidarity with LGBT people.
Tomasz K., who worked at IKEA’s outlet in Kraków, considered that contrary to his faith and decided to express that in a comment on the internal messaging system. “Acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and other deviations is scandalous” he wrote.
He then offered two quotes from the Bible suggesting that homosexuals deserve to be killed: “Woe to him through whom scandals come, it would be better for him to tie a millstone around his neck and plunge him in the depths of the sea” and “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them”.
As a result, Tomasz K. was fired. Ikea’s corporate culture is based on “freedom of ideas, tolerance and respect for each employee but the company has to react when it sees risk of breach of dignity of other employees,” said Katarzyna Broniarek, head of corporate communications at IKEA Retail, quoted by Bloomberg.
Ikea’s decision was in line with the Polish Labour Code, which requires employers to combat discrimination due to sexual orientation, reports OKO.press. In August last year, the Labour Inspectorate found no problems with the store in Kraków where Tomasz K. had been fired.
Justice ministry: “LGBT ideology destroys Polish tradition”
Nevertheless, prosecutor general Ziobro, who is also justice minister, described the decision as “scandalous” and “unacceptable”. He announced that he would order prosecutors to investigate, telling TVP Info that “this is a case of legal and economic violence against those who do not want to share the values of the pro-LGBT activists”.
In a separate case, Ziobro recently succeeded in having a verdict overturned against a print-shop employee who refused to carry out an order for an LGBT client. Ziobro argued that the constitution protects freedom of conscience, which includes “the right not to support homosexual content”.
Ziobro’s deputy, Marcin Romanowski, likewise criticised IKEA for “promoting LGBT ideology”, which is an “aggressive revolution that destroys our tradition”. He called on the Swedish firm to apologise to the Polish public.
Poland’s Catholic episcopate also criticised IKEA for its action, and warned that it has received “disturbing signals about attempts by other companies to propagate LGBT ideology” with the help of “foreign activists”.
Since early 2019, Poland’s government and Catholic church have led a vocal anti-LGBT campaign, resulting in Poland recently being ranked as the worst country for LGBT people in the European Union.
Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Gazeta
Agnieszka Wądołowska is managing editor of Notes from Poland. She has previously worked for Gazeta.pl and Tokfm.pl and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysokie Obcasy, Duży Format, Midrasz and Kultura Liberalna