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Anti-Discrimination Laws in Germany

1. Brief Description of Anti-Discrimination Laws

With effect as of 18th August 2006 the German General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) came into force. Objective of the law is to provide comprehensive protection against discrimination on the basis of race and ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

2. Extent of Protection

In accordance with Sec. 2 AGG, no discrimination may occur with respect to the conditions for access to employment, to self-employment and to occupation, including selection criteria and recruitment conditions, whatever the branch of activity is and at all hierarchical levels, including promotion. Furthermore all employment and working conditions, including pay, must be free from discrimination.

In accordance with Sec. 3 AGG the law provides protection against different behaviors. The generic term of discrimination therefore includes:

  • direct discrimination
  • indirect discrimination
  • harassment
  • sexual harassment and
  • instruction to discriminate

3. Protections Against Harassment

Harassment occurs, when an unwanted conduct takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, which is related to any grounds protected under the law. An indication for harassment is the violation of dignity and creation of a hostile environment.

4. Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Discriminatory behavior of an employee is considered a breach of the employment contract. In order to protect the victim from discrimination, the employer is obliged to take the appropriate and necessary measures, such as a written warning of the offender, relocating him/her or terminating their contract.

5. Remedies

In accordance with Sec. 13 AGG, the employee, who was discriminated, has the possibility to complain at the company complaints body, if the discrimination relates to the employment relationship. Furthermore, the employee is also entitled to directly claim remedy or compensation, if he/she was discriminated.

If the employer is responsible for the discrimination, he is obliged to pay damages or a reasonable compensation. Such amount of such compensation is, however, relatively low compared to other countries. The employee needs to raise his/her claim in written form within a period of forfeiture of two months after he/she became aware of the discrimination. In case of discrimination during the hiring process, only monetary damages are granted by law, there is no right to be given the relevant job, however.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in Germany, please contact Tobias Pusch, Partner at Pusch Wahlig Legal (www.pwlegal.net) at pusch@pwlegal.net
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