Employment Law

Religious discrimination in Germany

Employees in Germany enjoy quite strong statutory protection against discrimination on the basis of the General Equal Treatment Act. When it comes to religion, for instance, employers are not allowed to ask about beliefs during the interview, which seems fair enough as questions about pregnancy and future children are equally prohibited. After all, religious beliefs are or should be a private matter.

But what happens if the belief gets in the way with carrying out respective employment duties? As always, a balancing exercise is required. Of course an employer can ask the employee to do the work they are hired to do, as long as it is within scope of the employment agreement and overall reasonable. Any conflict needs to be balanced against the employer’s legitimate business interest. If there is an alternative task the employee could do, the employer may be required to ask someone else to do the primary task. However, if an employee is hired to do a specific task and they knew from the beginning that their belief would prevent them from carrying out that task, a dismissal would be justified.