Domestic Case Law

XII ZB 166/03 Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) (2004)

Female genital mutilation or female genital cutting

The Court affirmed the decision of the lower court which had prohibited the parents of a young daughter with Gambian nationality resident in Germany from determining her whereabouts and relocating her to Gambia due to a high risk of FGM/C being performed on the daughter in Gambia. This decision paved the way for several similar decisions by lower courts protecting girls from potential FGM/C during trips to their home countries in cases where a high risk of FGM/C was prevalent in the home country.

1 BvR 300/02 Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) (2002)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Mr. Z appealed to the Court against an injunction issued against him by a lower court in expedited proceedings prohibiting him from approaching his partner and from re-entering the flat he shared with her on the grounds of protection from domestic violence. The Court did not allow the appeal on the grounds that the injunction did not breach a constitutional right of the claimant. The need for immediate short-term protection from further domestic violence justified the expedited nature of the proceedings.

BVerwG 6 C 25.12 Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) (2013)

Harmful traditional practices

The Court rejected the appeal and upheld the decision of the lower court that a female Muslim high school student was not exempt from compulsory swimming lessons on the grounds of her religion. In the circumstances, there was not sufficient reason to undermine compulsory school attendance of children. The parents of the girl had applied to the school for an exemption from swimming lessons on the grounds that Islamic dress custom did not allow their daughter to participate in co-educational swimming lessons. The school had rejected the application but permitted the girl to wear swimwear which would be in accordance with Islamic custom (a burkini). The decision was generally welcomed as protecting the right of Muslim girls to education.

1 BvR 1409/10 Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) (2011)

Gender discrimination

The Court held that it was in breach of the right to equal treatment enshrined in the German constitution that periods of maternity leave (which affects women only) were not counted towards certain pension benefits whereas periods of sick leave (which affects both men and women) were.

1 BvL 8/08 Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) (2010)

Employment discrimination

Employees of state hospitals in Hamburg were granted the right in 1995 to continued employment in case of privatization of the hospitals. In 2000, the cleaning staff were spun out into a separate company which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the state hospitals. Upon privatization in 2005, the right to continued employment was applied only to those employees employed by the state hospitals, not those employed by the wholly-owned subsidiary company. The Court held this to be in breach of the right to equal treatment enshrined in the German constitution as the cleaning staff denied the right to continued employment due to the spin-off were predominantly women and there was no evident justification for the unequal treatment of the two groups of employees.

15 Sa 517/08 Employment Court Berlin-Brandenburg (Landesarbeitsgericht Berlin-Brandenburg) (2008)

Employment discrimination

The claimant sued her employer on the grounds of discrimination after a male colleague received a promotion to a management role she had hoped for. The Court decided for the claimant, accepting statistical evidence showing that, while the majority of employees of the employer (69%) were women, no women were represented on the three most senior management levels. This was the first decision of a court accepting such statistical evidence of discrimination.

1 BvR 774/02 Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) (2005)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

The Court held that it was unconstitutional to require an attorney without earnings to continue to make compulsory pension contributions during time taken out to care for children (up to the age of three years). Requiring such compulsory pension contributions was viewed as in breach of the right to equal treatment enshrined in the German constitution because it disproportionately affects women who are in the vast majority of cases the ones taking time out to care for small children.

International Case Law

Case 171/88, Rinner-Kühn [1989] ECR 2743 European Court of Justice (1989)

Employment discrimination

At issue was a challenge to a German statute requiring employers to pay up to six weeks of annual sick leave for employees who worked more than ten hours per week, or more than forty-five hours per month. R-K sued her employer, an office cleaning company for whom she worked ten hours per week, after her request for eight hours of sick pay had been refused. Her claim was that, if Article 141 covered statutory-mandate sick pay provisions, the German legislation discriminated indirectly against women. The ECJ held that Article 141 covered sick pay, and that consequently the statute “must, in principle, be regarded as contrary to the aims of Art.[141]”, unless the German government could muster an argument to the contrary. The Court rejected the government’s submission that compared to full-time workers, part-timers “were not as integrated in, or as dependent on, the undertaking employing them”, declaring that “these considerations, in so far as they are only generalizations about certain categories of workers, do not enable criteria which are both objective and unrelated to any discrimination on grounds of sex to be identified.” It then announced a variation of the least-means proportionality test developed in Bilka. To mount a successful defense, Member States must convince a judge that the legislative “means chosen meet a necessary aim of its social policy,” and that these means “are suitable and requisite for attaining that aim.” The national judge has a duty to apply this test. The Court thus extended the Bilka framework to the judicial review of statutory-mandate social policy.

Case of Schmidt v. Germany European Court of Human Rights (1994)

Gender discrimination

Gender-based service-or-tax requirement.  The Court found a law that required men only to serve as firefighter and required women to pay a tax was discriminatory in violation of the ECHR.

Hofmann v. Barmer Ersatzkasse European Court of Justice (1984)

Gender discrimination

The plaintiff is the illegitimate father of a child and took off work to take care of the child for a while. He applied for maternity leave and was turned down by the defendant, his employer. The country’s court decided that the legislation only permitted maternity leave and no paternity leave. In interpreting Directive 76/207, the Court decided that it was not meant to force member states to grant the same leave to fathers even if that is what the parents decide.