Discrimination against people on grounds of their sexual orientation is a topic widely discussed in European politics. For example, only recently, in Ireland marriage between same sex partners became lawful. In Germany, it is still not possible for same sex partners to marry. They can only enter into a so-called registered civil partnership (eingetragene Lebenspartnerschaft), which is different to marriage in some respects, for example, regarding adoption rights.

From an employment law perspective, employees are fully protected against discrimination due to their sexual orientation under the German Anti-Discrimination Act. This includes gay men, lesbians and bisexuals. Transsexuals are also protected against discrimination under the provisions of the German Anti-Discrimination Act, but on grounds of gender rather than sexual orientation.

Discrimination may, for example, occur in company pension schemes under which a surviving spouse of an employee is entitled to a pension payment, whereas a partner from a civil partnership is not. Such differentiation has been declared invalid by labour courts, so surviving dependants from a civil partnership are now entitled to the same pension payments as those from a marriage.

In addition, discrimination may occur during the job application process. The sexual orientation of a person must neither be a cause for the rejection of an applicant nor a precondition for his or her employment. Employees may claim monetary compensation if they are rejected for this reason. In order to avoid any such claim, employers must not refer to the applicant’s sexual orientation either during the application process, in their internal documentation or – most importantly – in the rejection letter to the applicant.

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