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Court rules against 'Ossi' discrimination case

DDP/The Local · 15 Apr 2010, 15:08

Published: 15 Apr 2010 15:08 GMT+02:00

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The case involved a 48-year-old East German-born bookkeeper identified as Gabriela S., who claimed she had suffered discrimination after discovering the word "Ossi" preceded by a minus sign had been written on a job application rejected by a window manufacturing firm in the southwestern German city.

"Ossi" is a term for eastern Germans that is often derogatory, and Gabriela S. and her lawyer sued the company for three months salary on grounds of discrimination based on ethnic background.

But the court said former East Germans could not be considered their own tribe.

“Regarding ethnic background there is more to consider than just regional origin,” the court’s head judge said, though he did acknowledge that the term “Ossi” could be understood pejoratively.

Meanwhile the window firm claimed that they rejected the 48-year-old’s application because she was unqualified for the position. The company claimed that the minus sign on her paperwork was meant to signal her lack of skills, while the term “Ossi” was meant positively.

Story continues below…

The company also claimed that it had good experiences with former East German employees and had apologised via telephone for accidentally sending the applicant “internal documents.”

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:18 April 15, 2010 by dcgi
Surely the point here shouldn't if the word "Ossi" is or isn't a valid ethnic group, it's still offensive and essentially a prejudice. For English people you would probably say the same if you saw "(-) Chav" on your application.

Personally I think the women should anonymously post up the de-personalised scans of her job application on the net with a short blog post about what happened so at least people can see what kind of a company they really are.
18:05 April 15, 2010 by AirForceGuy
I can't believe it. A court ruling that actually makes sense in spite of the 'Politically Correct' insanity!
18:30 April 15, 2010 by cobalisk
The ruling makes sense from a legal standpoint as classifying East Germans as a separate ethnic group is a bad precedent.

Nevertheless to think this woman was not viewed negatively in some way is absurd. The company's comments are a clear white-wash.

Ultimately it is clear that she was discriminated against but the claim for ethnicity based discrimination was denied and this was appropriate.
20:19 April 15, 2010 by weaverjulia
On the topic of job discrimination from the job application process in Germany:

I find it shocking that most German applications require a photo as well as your date of birth and origins. In many countries (for example, the US), it is illegal to ask for any of these things on a job application due to the obvious problems with discrimination. If you want to volunteer personal information not pertaining to the job, that's up to you.

Of course, this woman probably had things on her CV indicating that she was an Ossi, but still...
00:19 April 16, 2010 by wxman
This was ludicrous from the start. Kudos to the court.
11:06 April 16, 2010 by michael4096
For English people you would probably say the same if you saw "(-) Chav" on your application.
Not really. Perhaps "scouser" or "tyke". Chav is universally negative whereas fr merkel is an ossi, and proud of it.
14:35 April 16, 2010 by wood artist
I think I have to agree with the court. While the term Ossi can certainly be a negative stereotype, it would be hard to prove that was the meaning in this case. Like many other things, this was a situation where the court simply could not prove it was meant to be derogatory. She may believe what she wishes, as may everyone else, but it doesn't rise to the level of provable discrimination. She might well not be qualified for the job, and none of us have any way of knowing.

15:55 April 16, 2010 by Beachrider
The court technically got it right. The law is what it is. It is probably too narrowly written. The HR person should still be fired OR that will be a negative message to 'east' Germans.

The fact that this somehow makes 'ossi' a more-acceptable pejorative is not good for German society.
16:14 April 16, 2010 by dbert4
This is a question of discrimination based on, national origin, the at the time DDR.
17:44 April 16, 2010 by Prufrock2010
This case was a no-brainer from day one. The lawyer who filed the suit should be sanctioned.
19:16 April 18, 2010 by DoubleDTown
dbert4 has a very good point on the national origin thing.

several commenters aren't fully understanding the issue: the big question was is it illegal to discriminate against someone based on them originating in the "new Bundeslaender", not whether that happened in this instance. The court said no, people from eastern Germany are not a protected class.

At least, I think that's what the court said based on my reading of English-language articles about the case. This plaintiff was 48, not 19, so she definitely originated in the DDR, not just the eastern region of BRD.
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