Cases in the Area of Equal Treatment and Equality between Women and Men in Employment and Occupation

Example 1: Only male applicants for job in bakery – discrimination in establishing an employment relationship

Ms. D is a professional baker. She has been looking for a job in the occupation for which she had trained as an apprentice for several months. After completion of her apprenticeship, she had worked temporarily (also for financial reasons) in the manufacturing and restaurant sectors. She told us about several job interviews, which were unsuccessful because the company could not imagine a woman working as a baker. She was given several reasons why it was impossible to employ her, e.g. that she was physically incapable of exercising this activity because she would be exposed to great heat or because the work was extremely hard. The Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment intervened in some cases. Ms. D decided against taking further legal steps as her main goal was to bring about a change in attitude of the enterprises.

Example 2: Lower pay for equal work due to wrong job classification – pay discrimination

In an enterprise all jobs were reclassified and consequently assigned to the salary groups laid down in the collective agreement. When her job was reclassified, Ms. E became aware of the fact that her job had been assigned a lower classification level than comparable jobs of her male colleagues performing the same or equal tasks. Hence, her job was allocated to a different salary group, and Ms. E received lower pay.
Ms. E contacted the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment, which submitted a written legal opinion on the facts of the case to the works council. Following negotiations with her employer, during which she was supported by the works council, the woman’s job was reclassified on a non-discriminatory basis.

Example 3: Supporting men to move up to "well-deserved" executive positions – discrimination in career advancement

The vacancy for the head of department of personnel and personnel development was announced internally in a large enterprise. Ms. F (aged about 50 years) had extensive experience in the personnel sector and completed legal studies with a focus on labour law. She served as head of the controlling department in the same enterprise for many years. Alongside with several male colleagues, she applied for the vacant position. Based on her professional qualifications and personal skills, she considered herself the most suitable candidate. Two (of a total of three) managing directors confirmed this view verbally. As usual in this enterprise, the three best-qualified candidates participated in a hearing. The applicant achieving the highest score in this hearing usually filled the vacant position. Ms. F participated in the hearing with two other candidates, emerging from it as the highest-scoring candidate.

Receiving the written result of the hearing, the management refused to accept the outcome. One of the managing directors insisted that a male employee should be selected for this responsible and prestigious position. He requested another hearing to be staged with the two top candidates. The management complied with his request insofar as appointment was postponed.

The Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment informed the enterprise of the fact that Ms. F considered to sue the enterprise for damages. The vacancy for which she applied was the best paid position in the enterprise. All predecessors held this job until retirement. After further talks, the management appointed Ms. F to this executive position without holding a second hearing.

Example 4: Refusal to change a temporary employment contract into an employment relationship of indefinite duration after rejection of sexual harassment – discrimination based on sexual harassment and in terminating an employment relationship

After Ms. G completed an apprenticeship in an enterprise successfully, she was given a temporary job. According to the contract, the employment would be extended for an indefinite period of time unless Ms. G was notified to the contrary.

When Ms. G met her supervisor by coincidence in a bar in her leisure time, he invited her for a drink, suddenly grabbed her and tried to kiss her. She defended herself vigorously and reacted by slapping him in the face. During the next days she felt very uncomfortable when she met him at work. The supervisor continued to make overtures, which she rejected. Shortly before the end of her temporary employment relationship, Ms. G was informed in writing that her employment would end through expiry of term.

After intervention by the Ombuds Office for Equal Treatment, Ms. G was paid the minimum amount to which victims of sexual harassment offences are entitled under the law. Ms. G did not wish to take legal steps regarding the alleged discrimination in terminating an employment relationship.