By Irina Anyukhina, Firm: Alrud

The Russian Supreme Court has confirmed that employees who fail to file claims on time because they are pregnant or on maternity or childcare leave have a legitimate reason for their failure to file.

In 2019, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation pointed out on several occasions that a worker’s pregnancy, as well as the fact of being on maternity or childcare leave, are justifiable reasons for failing to file an employment-related claim with the courts on time. The Court’s key argument, in such cases, is that the employee’s priority duties during these periods are to protect her health during pregnancy, protect the interests of her young children and take care of them.

In one case (Decision of the Judicial Chamber on Civil Cases of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated 28 January 2019 No. 78-KG18-74), an employee filed a claim with the court requesting the payment of bonus payments for past periods of work. The company pointed out that the employee had failed to file a claim with the court to resolve an individual labour dispute within the statutory time limits, as provided for in article 392 of the Labour Code of the Russian Federation. In turn, the employee asked the court to recognise the reason for her failure to file a claim was justifiable and reinstate it, indicating that she has three children and, during the disputed period, she was on maternity leave as well as on childcare leave.

In another case (Decision of the Judicial Chamber on Civil Cases of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation dated 5 August 2019 No. 16-KG19-21), an employee did not agree with her dismissal, but was only able to go to court a few months after the termination of her contract. One of the reasons for her failure to file a claim with the court on time was that she was on maternity leave and only went to court after the birth of the child.

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation decided that, in both cases, that the lower courts that refused to recognise the reasons for failure to file a claim with the court on time as justified did not take into account the circumstances which meant the employees could not file claims with the court.

In particular, the circumstances in question related to rights for women provided in the Constitution of the Russian Federation as well as in legislative provisions that relate to maternity, and caring for and bringing up of children. These rights allow women to combine work with family responsibilities, and to have equal rights to take part in, and progress with, paid employment.

In both cases, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognised the reasons for the employees’ failure to file a claim with the court on time as justified and sent the cases back to the lower courts for fresh consideration.