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Dismissal of an employee after serious racist remarks lawful

Press Release of Dusseldorf Regional Labour Court dated 23 March 2021

If an employee insults his colleagues with statements such as: "I wished for a gas chamber, but I didn't get it. The Turks should be thrown into the fire and have their heads cut off", even his recognised severe disability does not protect him from being dismissed. The employee believed himself to be "untouchable" and "unterminable" on the basis of his disability - and was wrong.

What happened?

The employee had already insulted his colleagues from Turkey as "oil eyes", "niggers" and "subjects". After approval by the Integration Office, the employer terminated the employment relationship with the employee, who then filed an action for unfair dismissal. The 5th Division of the Dusseldorf Regional Labour Court dismissed the action in its judgment of 10 December 2020.

Dismissal due to severe racist insults effective

According to the Regional Labour Court, the dismissal was socially justified due to the statements made to the colleagues and the employment relationship was effectively terminated. The terms "oil eyes", "niggers" and "subjects" all constitute unacceptable offensive remarks. The employee's serious misconduct finally culminated in the employee's national-socialist inhumane statement in response to the completely innocuous question of the work colleague as to what he had received for Christmas. According to the judges, a prior warning was unreasonable in view of the seriousness of the misconduct and the weighing of interests was also to the employee's disadvantage despite his severe disability.

Addressing racism in the labour courts

Racist remarks in the workplace constitute unacceptable insults that result in termination of employment. The ruling discussed here is reminiscent of last year's "Ugha, Ugha!" decision by the Federal Constitutional Court. The judges in Karlsruhe drew a line under a constitutional complaint by an employee against his extraordinary dismissal because of inhumane remarks (here you can find the press release). The employee had previously imitated his dark-skinned colleague with monkey sounds.

The decisions raise awareness that racism is also pervasive in the workplace and employers are well advised to prevent racist behaviour from its very beginnings.

Dr Kathrin Bürger
Anne-Kathrin von Dahlen

Experts

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Dr Kathrin Bürger T   +49 89 35065-1124 E   Kathrin.Buerger@advant-beiten.com
Anne-Kathrin von Dahlen T   +49-89-35065-1124 E   Anne-Kathrin.vonDahlen@advant-beiten.com