Discrimination due to secession from the Catholic Church

The European Court of Justice dealt with a similar case of religious discrimination: Here you will learn more about the complaint of a doctor who was dismissed by a Catholic hospital in Dusseldorf because he had married again after his divorce.

The plaintiff was a member of the Catholic Church until her move to a predominantly Protestant village. After the move, she left the Catholic Church and joined the Evangelical Church to make the transition easier for her family.

At the beginning of 2018 she applied for an advertised position as secretary at a Catholic educational institution. After a successful job interview, she received a verbal offer for the position from the head of the Catholic educational institution. The plaintiff was subsequently sent the personnel questionnaire. In this she was asked whether she was a member of the Catholic Church and whether she had left the Catholic Church. After submitting the completed personal questionnaire, the plaintiff received a phone call telling her that she could not be recruited due to her leaving the Catholic Church. From the Catholic Church's point of view, her secession from church represented a break in loyalty, which according to the internal constitution of the Catholic Church precludes employment in a Catholic institution. Subsequently, she also received a written rejection. An employment contract has not been concluded.

However, if the plaintiff had always been Protestant, of other faiths or unaffiliated with any religion,  recruitment would have been possible without any problems according to the basic order of the Catholic Church.

The plaintiff is now suing for damages and compensation under § 15 (1) and (2) AGG against the Catholic educational institution due to discrimination on grounds of her religion.

The defendant fails to recognize that the recruitment of employees to church institutions under the European Employment Directive 2000/78 can only be claimed for a particular religion if, according to the nature of the work, it constitutes a substantial, legitimate and justified requirement. However, in the case of the advertised position a particular religion or loyalty to the Catholic Church is not a legitimate requirement for the job, hence the rejection constitutes discrimination.

On 14 September 2018, the conciliation hearing (ref. 5 Ca 283/18) took place at the labour court in Pforzheim.

The first-instance court hearing was scheduled for 23 January 2019. Shortly before the scheduled court hearing the defendant party, the archdiocese of Freiburg, has offered the payment of compensation of 9,000 euros in a settlement. In doing so, they fully respond to the plaintiff's claim and in effect concede discrimination against the plaintiff who has left the Catholic Church. The case will therefore remain legally unclear, at least for the time being.

Here you will find BUG's press release on the Archdiocese of Freiburg's avoidance of a legal clarification in this case of discrimination.

© Büro zur Umsetzung von Gleichbehandlung e.V. 2018