What is discrimination?

The General Equal Treatment Act uses the term “less favourable treatment”, but not “discrimination”, because not every kind of unequal treatment which causes disadvantage is necessarily discriminatory.

Less favourable treatment is impermissible if it cannot be legally justified. These justifications are provided in the legislation, in other words, there are exceptional situations in which unequal treatment concerning employment and access to goods and services is allowed.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • There are different circumstances which are called discrimination. The General Act on Equal Treatment (German abbreviation: AGG) does not mention discrimination, but unequal treatment, since not every difference in treatment which entails a disadvantage necessarily has to be discriminating. To a very limited extent, unequal treatment shall be permissible.

    It shall be considered as a case of direct (or open) discrimination if a person has been treated less favourably or would be treated less favourably than compared to another person. For instance, this is the case where a woman earns considerably less than her male colleague when doing the same work.

    The protection against discrimination of the General Act on Equal Treatment also covers cases of indirect discrimination. These rules are purporting to be neutral, but they place specific persons at a disadvantage on one of the grounds specified in the General Act on Equal Treatment.

    For example: According to a wage agreement, part-time employees must not claim certain advantages without a justification on the basis of their working hours. If the vast majority of the part-time staff members at a company are women, this shall be a case of indirect gender-related discrimination.

    Any harassment on one of the grounds set forth in the General Act on Equal Treatment shall also be prohibited. Where an unwanted conduct takes place with the effect or purpose of violating the dignity of another person, in particular where it creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment, the Act calls it harassment.

    Sexual harassment is defined as unwanted conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of the person involved. For example: Male employees make suggestive remarks in the presence of a female colleague. Moreover, they also send her e-mails with pornographic content.

    Mobbing shall be deemed a form of harassment under the terms of the AGG, when it is motivated by one of the discrimination characteristics stipulated in the Act. Instructing others to discriminate also constitutes a form of discrimination. Thus, the potential victim must not necessarily wait until an act of discrimination has taken place, but instead he or she can already take action against this instruction.

  • The AGG provides protection for persons who are discriminated against on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity. At any rate, all persons have their specific sex and age. However, not all persons are affected by discrimination in the same way. The AGG also envisages the protection of those who have been discriminated against on multiple grounds. One example of multiple discrimination is when a woman looking for a job or a flat is turned away, because she comes from a migrant background and is disabled.

    In the field of employment and profession, the protection by the AGG covers both, self-employment and gainful employment. Further to the areas of employment and profession, the AGG applies to access to and supply of goods and services, such as shopping, visits to restaurants or discotheques, searching for flats as well as insurance and banking transactions.

    Whether the protection provided by the AGG also applies to the discrimination you have experienced, has to be clarified in a conversation with our counselling staff. Every single case is unique and has to be examined thoroughly.

    Please do not hesitate to contact us! At the top of this website you will find our contact details at the hyperlink 'contact'.

  • In an independent manner, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency supports persons who have experienced discrimination on the grounds of race or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual identity. The Agency informs the general public about the General Act on Equal Treatment and the fact that equal treatment is a human right. In addition, the Agency has initiated research on the subject of discrimination and commissions contracts relating to research projects.

    Please have a look at our socio-scientific study from Sinus Sociovision on the subject of 'Perceptions of Discrimination and Anti-Discrimination Policy in our Society'. You may find it on our website at the hyperlink 'Service' under the category 'downloads' on the left side.

  • Anyone who feels to have been discriminated against or who wants to ask questions relating to the General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG) may turn to this Agency.

  • On top of our website, under the hyperlink 'Contact', you will find an e--electronic-contact form on the right via which you may turn to the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. Moreover, there is the possibility of contacting us by phone, by letter or fax. If you want to, you may also agree on a date with our counselling staff for a personal conversation.

  • First of all it will be examined whether you have been discriminated against under the terms of the General Act on Equal Treatment and whether you have any potential claims. The counselling staff members cannot act as your representative in court. However, you may also use this Agency for mediation purposes. In case of dispute the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency can contact your opposing party, that is e.g. your employer or landlord, and may initialize an out-of-court settlement.

    In addition we can give you the contact details of a counselling centre in your neighbourhood.

  • Under the category 'Recommendations for companies' you will find a guide for employers which is meant to facilitate the implementation of the AGG at companies and gives recommendations on how to deal with this Act.

  • As a rule, the website of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency is barrier-free. Moreover, in addition to the publications entitled 'Guide to the General Act on Equal Treatment. Explanations and Examples' and to the General Act on Equal Treatment we have made documents available in PDF which are in an optimized version for screen readers.

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