News - Germany

Germany - October 2011

Request to take language lessons without time-off or payment of the costs is not unlawful discrimination due to ethnic origin

The employer’s request to take a German language course to acquire language skills necessary for the respective type of work is not a violation of the General Equal Treatment Act (AGG, Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz).

So it was held in this case (see Resources below).

The claimant had worked in the public swimming-pool of the defendant since 1985.  Her mother tongue is Croatian.  In the beginning she had worked as a cleaner.  Later, for about 14 years she helped out as a stand-in cashier.  In spring 2006 the employer asked the claimant to improve her knowledge of the German language by participating in a German language course at her own cost and outside her working hours.  The claimant asked the employer to pay the costs and it declined to do so.  The claimant did not participate in a language course which (after several periods of illness and incapacity for work) lead to a warning from the employer in October 2007.  The claimant requested a compensation payment of € 15.000,00 for being discriminated against due to ethnic origin.

The Federal Employment Court ruled that the employer may ask for participation in a German (or other) language course, if the ability to speak the German (or other) language is necessary for the work of the employee.  The request to attend such a course at the employee’s own costs and outside working hours may violate the employment contract or a collective agreement in single cases. However, such a violation is not illegal discrimination due to ethnic origin which may generate an entitlement to compensation for discrimination.

Resources

Bundesarbeitsgericht: Urteil vom 22. Juni 2011 - 8 AZR 48/10 – Vorinstanz: Landesarbeitsgericht Schleswig-Holstein, Urteil vom 23. Dezember 2009 - 6 Sa 158/09

For further information or to discuss any of the issues raised, please contact Stefanie Andrelang on +49 89 242230-0.