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Employer sued for asking about family plans

An employer who asked an employee about her family plans has been ordered to pay high compensation on the grounds of gender discrimination.

Employer sued for asking about family plans ©-ferkelraggae-Fotolia
Employer sued for asking about family plans ©-ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Family plans

The employer became curios when one of his female employees announced she wanted to get married and then asked whether she could increase her hours.

The employer sent the woman an e-mail with the heading “Career vs. Family Plans” and containing the following:

“Dear Miss N,

You have said that you plan to get married at the end of October and you will be starting a new stage in your life.

I want to be completely honest with you. It is “usual” for women of your age to become pregnant and to have children. Here at M. we welcome new arrivals to this earth – however, we have to consider business affairs.

We would like you to be a part of the planned extension to our services in Düsseldorf – but, of course, this cannot happen if you are away during 2012 because you are pregnant.

Please let me know what your family plans are: is it possible or do you plan to be pregnant during 2012 – or can you rule it out for next year?

This information is extremely important for staff planning in Düsseldorf.

Thank you very much for your co-operation!”

Employee reply

The employee replied that she had only mentioned her wedding as it meant her name and tax code would change. She re-assured her employer that her medium-term intentions were to develop her career.

The dismissal

The employee became pregnant during 2012 and was promptly dismissed. She then sued her employer on the grounds of gender discrimination and claimed 28,600 euros for having asked her about her family plans and for firing her once she became pregnant.

Gender discrimination

The Regional Employment Tribunal of Düsseldorf ruled that Germany’s anti-discrimination laws are applicable to cases of employment termination.

The court reached the conclusion that the employer had discriminated against his employee because her gender (12.03.2012, 11 Ca 7393/11).

The employer was ordered to pay compensation of 10,834 euros in accordance with § 15(2) of the General Anti-Discrimination Act.