General Equal Treatment Act Now in Germany

The idea behind this is the European Union is more than just an economic and monetary union. It is, first and foremost, a community based on shared values. Protection against discrimination is a core element of human rights policy. It also makes good economic sense to integrate minorities and disadvantaged groups as much as possible. Mostly everybody will think this law wants only to protect e.g. colored persons from discrimination committed by white persons. This new anti-discrimination legislation just as protects the white against bias e.g. Asian persons.


1. Introduction

The new bill prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnic origin, gender, religion, disability, age, or sexual identity. Special emphasis has been placed on protection against discrimination at work. Only a plausible reason justifies an unequal treatment. If employees are discriminated, they will have a right to claim damages suffered and can assert their claims before a labor court. Cases involving dismissals will be governed exclusively by the Unfair Dismissal Protection Act. This means a case in court must be filed latest two weeks after dismissal. Bear in your mind, it is also a discrimination when a person of the Kingdom of Benin refuses to work with an Australian due to his skin color or ethnic origin.

The following EU directives have been implemented:

  • Equal Treatment in the Workplace,
  • Equal Treatment for Men and Women as Regards Access to Employment, Vocational Training and Promotion, and Working Conditions,
  • Equal Treatment as Regards Access to and Supply of Goods and Services.

2.)  What Will this Change for Tenants?

Professional renters of rooms must actively obey this new law on antidiscrimination as their business typically falls under this law. If you are a private landlord then you still might be held liable for damages under this law but the burden of proof rests on the allegedly discriminated person. “Private landlords” are considered only to have up to 50 apartments to rent out. A property owner may not determine that no gays or whites will live in his facilities. However, if he denies a black person because he has a bad financial record that is no discrimination.

3.) Exceptions

Even though there might be a formal discrimination, there are rules for exemptions. Practically seen, not everything will be forbidden but subject to review. Exceptions will only be allowed for reasons based on age, disability, religion, world outlook, sexual identity, gender, but not on or ethnic origin. The grounds for differentiation must be reasonable. A catholic hospital may refuse to hire a lesbian and/or protestant nurse but not so a state-hospital. A black gynecologist may insist on having only female nurses in his practice but he may not turn own a nurse because she is white.

4.) Remedies and Damages

You have the right to complain to the relevant authority. §15 AGG determines you have the right to be compensated for the concrete financial losses (e.g. legal fees) and a compensation in money due to the infringement of this law in general. These financial damages are topped to the triple net income of the refused job.

N.B. The officers will not render you any legal consultation. The best and only thing they will and can do will be to mediate the situation. This office cannot order e.g. the employer to give you and not the competing employee the job.

Victims of discrimination will be required to assert their claims within a period of two months and to present circumstantial evidence. If you substantially show the office in a complaint, you were disadvantaged due to your black skin; the alleged offender will have to prove the contrary because the law then assumes he committed this discrimination. The burden of proof is turned over to the offender if you show the likelihood of an offense. “Burden of proof” is to be understood as whose responsibility it is to prove a fact after it has been denied. If you fall short of proving and it is your obligation, you will lose the case.

The bill provides for the creation of more bureaucracy. An Office for Antidiscrimination Affairs at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) has been created. It is the: Antidiskriminierungsstelle des Bundes, Alexander Straße 3, Berlin you can call them under 030 – 185 551 865 (Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.), per eMail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., per internet: open hours are Monday – Thursday 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. N.B. Do not expect the officers to be fluent in English but they surely will have an open ear for your problems.

Victims of discrimination will be able to obtain advice on their situation there. The office of anti-discrimination affairs is supposed to have a mediating function between the parties involved in a dispute and be able to request position statements. It will have a right to demand information from federal authorities. However, it may not come to binding solution, like a judgment, because this is reserved for the courts.

N.B. If you want to sue for damages, you will still need the services of an attorney.

5.) Further to the Interview of the Editor

As many of you have surely noticed, Ms. Imasuen has interviewed the publisher on this subject on her TV show "Great Africa" on Offener Kanal on Febraury 2, 2007. During this interview, it was perceived that the Equal Treatment Act might be considered as a toothless tiger. The problem that lead to this assumption is the simple but a very practical question: How can you prove that you were neglected because of your skin color or ethnical origin? This proof cannot not be easily established! It is a matter of the facts of the individual case. "Best" would be that the declining person says so in your and your witness' face. Yes, this will hardly be the case. You will mostly likely hear from the landlord that he decided to rent the apartment to somebody else. A few weeks later, the apartment is still empty... Keep in mind, Germany is free country. Generally, art. 2, 12, 14 GG grants everybody to do business / rent out/ just as they like and with whom they want. You have no right to force anybody to rent out to you or hire you! If that person does not want you, why obtrude yourself? Find something better!

Additional information