Labour law

Generally, labour law constitutes the totality of norms which regulate employed, meaning nonautonomously accomplished, work, where the workers are bound by directives concerning its nature, execution, as well as time and place.

Dismissal due to Russian accent

Regional Labour Court of Bremen, judgment of 29.06.2010 - 1 Sat 29/10

The plaintiff is a logistics manager and German citizen. She speaks with a Russian accent. Since 20.01.2009 she had been an employee of the sued logistics company. Her responsibilities included, inter alia, the telephone service (client contact). On 11.03.2009, a conversation took place between the plaintiff and the managing director of the defendant party, in which the manager claimed that the customers were scared by her Russian accent and that this had a negative effect on the reputation of the company. Thereupon, the plaintiff could not answer any more phone calls and received a dismissal notice on 07.04.2009.

According to section §1 of the General Equal Treatment Act discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin can be discerned in this dismissal since the termination of employment resulted from the Russian accent of the plaintiff who thereby experienced a less favourable treatment than other employees without Russian accent.  

The plaintiff was entitled to a compensation of three monthly salaries.

No employment on grounds of headscarf

Higher Regional Court of Celle, judgment of 13/02/2014 - 13 U 37/13, District Court of Lueneburg, judgment of 15.01.2013 - 9 O 261/12

The plaintiff is German and has Turkish roots. She wears a headscarf. She had applied for a job as a private job adviser. There she was told she could not work as a job adviser when wearing a headscarf.
The plaintiff went to an anti-discrimination centre and filed a complaint.

The Higher Regional Court of Celle affirmed that discrimination had occurred and the plaintiff received a compensation of 1,850.00 EUR.


Testing language skills through the telephone corresponds to indirect discrimination

Labor Court Hamburg, judgment of 26 January 2010, 25 Ca 282/09

The Ivorian plaintiff applied for a position as a post officer at a company within the postal sector- the defendant in this case. According to the job offer the applicants were to have a sound command of both written and spoken German. Although the plaintiff’s mother tongue is French, he had been living in Germany since 2002 and successfully completed an apprenticeship carried out in the German language in March of 2008. The post company’s selection process consisted of an initial phone interview with the plaintiff to decide on whether they would be invited for a face to face interview. In the process of the phone interview the plaintiff’s spoken German was judged.

According to the defendant, the plaintiff did not express himself in a clear and articulate manner.

The Labour Court decided that indirect discrimination in regard to ethnicity was at play in the way in which the application process was conducted: It expands that applicants whose mother tongue is not German are fundamentally more often negatively affected by the defendant’s application process (as the first contact is being made through a phone call). The selection process cannot be objectively justified as a legitimate goal according to article 3, subparagraph 2 of the AGG and is thus not appropriate.

The defendant was sentenced to pay a compensation of three month’s gross salaries to the plaintiff, which amounted to € 5,400.


"Job vacancy is unfortunately addressed to German native speakers"

Labor Court Berlin, judgment of 11 February 2009 - 55 Ca 16952/08

The plaintiff is a native of the Dominican Republic, graduated in Mexico City and completed her Master's degree in Berlin. The defendant is an Art Association that sought to hire a ‘cultural manager’ to fill a job vacancy. The plaintiff had a lot of professional experience and interest, and applied for the vacancy advertised.

At the request of the plaintiff, the Art Association answered that the job vacancy was unfortunately directed to German native speakers. This criterion was not noted in the job specifications beforehand. During the hearing, the defendant stated that this meant the need to have excellent German literacy skills.

Even before the end of the application procedure, the plaintiff was excluded from the group of follow-up applications on the grounds that the Association would not consider a non- native German speaker. This was a deliberate exclusion of persons, who are not German native speakers, which, in turn, signifies a clear difference in the treatment of individuals with a different ethnic origin:

 "German native speakers are only found in a small part of the world's population, so the criterion of the German mother tongue leads to the exclusion of a large number of ethnic groups," said the Berlin Labor Court. Furthermore, the court sees no need for a native German speaker for the position, since it is possible for non-native speakers to also speak perfect German.

The pre-sorting of the plaintiff raises discrimination on the basis of the characteristics of the ethnic group. The defendant is ordered to pay a compensation of € 3,900, which corresponds to three monthly salaries.

© Büro zur Umsetzung von Gleichbehandlung e.V. 2011