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Pension company finds no evidence of discrimination in sacking of gay man

An Ilmarinen employee claims he was fired after his manager learned he married a man.

Muun muassa Business Finlandin kyltti on kuvattu Helsingin Porkkalankadulla joulukuussa 2020,
Ilmarinen denies firing an employee after learning he was gay. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

Pension firm Ilmarinen says its internal probe found no evidence of discrimination in terminating an employee during his trial period.

Former Ilmarinen employee Toni Varis has made headlines in Finland since taking to social media claiming that Ilmarinen fired him for being gay.

Varis claimed Ilmarinen sacked him after he told his manager he was married to a man. The following week Ilmarinen terminated Varis' contract with two days remaining of his probationary period.

Ilmarinen immediately denied Varis' claim but said it would investigate the matter.

"Privacy concerns limit us from publicly discussing the grounds for terminating the contract. The reasons pertain to work and the issue is unrelated to the employee's sexual orientation or marital status," Ilmarinen personnel director Sami Ärilä said in a statement.

"Gays work for Varma"

The controversy centres on how Varis claims his manager reacted to news of his same-sex marriage. Varis told Yle he was taken aback by his manager's response.

"He said gays can go and work for Varma (another pension firm)," Varis explained, adding that there were no witnesses to the exchange.

The manager in question denies that the conversation took place or that they had the hallway chat that Varis claims they did.

Ilmarinen said its investigation included studying employees' movements in the office and checking calendar entries "to the extent possible." The company concluded that the two workers did not cross paths.

"I spent the afternoon in question with this manager and the rest of the team, so in some way they've incorrectly checked the access control system," Varis told Yle.

Varis said he was unsurprised by Ilmarinen's findings, saying he was not informed by Ilmarinen that it had wrapped up its investigation. He said he learned that they had finished their probe on the company's website.

In its statement, Ilmarinen said it gave Varis the opportunity to convene over the matter together with an aide of his own choosing. Varis said he told HR director Ärilä he would come to a meeting if he received a written invitation to such an event.

"Now today (Tuesday) I learn that they've suddenly decided that the entire investigation is finished," he told Yle.

Ilmarinen's statement said "it wants to be a workplace where everyone can truly be themselves."

Varis said he is now contemplating taking the matter to the Regional State Administrative Agency (Avi) which monitors employment-related discrimination.

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