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Administrative and authoritative activity

In their actions, administrative bodies and public authorities are tied to the constitutional bans on discrimination in article 3, para 3, Basic Law, and to the general guarantee of the right to equality of article 3, para 1, Basic Law.

Respective special regulations for the protection from discrimination for administrations and authorities have been enshrined in the Social Code, in particular.

However, citizens feel they are placed at a disadvantage by legal provisions when in contact with administrative bodies and public authorities, for example.  This pertains to persons with impairments, for instance, when dealing with the welfare office due to regulations in connection with integration assistance. What is particularly striking in this respect is the unequal treatment of people of non-German nationality which is based on legal regulations and which is perceived partly as discrimination by those affected. Legal provisions on lacking equal treatment of same-sex couples in family policies are also implemented through administrative bodies such as the youth welfare office (limited adoption rights).

Moreover, persons with disabilities, in particular, experience an unequal treatment due to lacking accessibility in administrative bodies and public authorities. The buildings they are housed in are often inaccessible or only difficult to access for physically impaired persons. On the other hand, persons with disabilities have experienced that information and forms provided by administrations are not barrier-free.  Oftentimes, barrier-free contact with the respective authorities is not possible either, if, for instance, a deaf person can only communicate by using sign language, albeit interpretation is not provided and/or financed by the authority.  Furthermore, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency receives reports about discriminations such as insults and unfriendly treatment with regard to all administrative bodies and public authorities. Very frequently, this has been reported in relation to job centres and employment agencies. In general, studies by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency report about a high risk of discrimination as regards public employment services.

Expectations are particularly high for administrative bodies and public authorities as well as politics when it comes to acting as a role model by being non-discriminatory. Conversely, discriminations by the state - whether it be through official action at the individual level or on a legal basis - can possibly be used by other actors to legitimise their own discriminatory behaviour.

To strengthen protection against discrimination by public legal actions, Berlin passed a Land-Anti-Discrimination Act (LADG) in June 2020 as the first federal Land.  It is a protection against discrimination by public administration and all public bodies of the federal Land Berlin like e.g. district administrations, schools or the police.

Moreover, administrative bodies and governmental institutions heavily relied on Diversity Strategies and measures  to counter discrimination and promote diversity. For, despite many efforts, the diversity of the German society is oftentimes not reflected in administrations, as staff surveys in Bund, Länder and municipalities have shown. 

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