Paper: Supreme Court acquits businessman of violating labor stay laws

Construction work in Estonia (photo is illustrative).
Construction work in Estonia (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

The Supreme Court has acquitted entrepreneur Einar Velpler and his construction company of charges of allowing four Ukrainian citizens to remain in Estonia beyond their limit of stay, daily Õhtuleht reports.

The ruling overturns two lower-tier court decisions and suggests that how long a third country (non-EU/EEA) national has been in Estonia and the Schengen Zone is not the sole responsibility of an employer, if they have not exceeded the limit with the employer alone, though recent legal amends have already increased this responsibility.

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) found on January 25 2018 that the Ukrainian citizens had exceeded their permitted stay in Estonia, with Viru County court later finding Velpler, with him fined €3,000 (later reduced to €2,000) and the company, DEOS INT OÜ fined €6,000, according to Õhtuleht (link in Estonian).

On appeal to the next level of the court system, the Tartu Circuit Court, the original decision was upheld, which led to Velpler taking the case to the Supreme Court, who overturned the county and circuit court decisions and acquitted both Velpler and DEOS INT OÜ.

The Supreme Court found the 90-day limit, the only benchmark measure an entrepreneur can use, Õhtuleht writes, had not been exceeded, adding that it is not the responsibility of a local entrepreneur to establish how long overall a third country worker has been in Estonia.

The case predates recent amends to the principal relevant law, the Aliens Act, which have imposed on employers the responsibilities of a sponsor in relation to employees from third states who have temporary residents' permits in Estonia.

The construction and agricultural sectors employ significant numbers of citizens of Ukraine and other third countries, with the issue having been the subject of political debate leading up to the law change as well as impacted by border closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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