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Legal complaints assistance by associations

People affected by discrimination often do not take legal action – the obstacles faced by individual complainants are difficult to overcome alone. These are the costs and duration of the proceeding, the lack of specialisation of many lawyers and fundamentally the inaccessibility of the law.

Legal proceedings can take several years – especially if they go through various instances. For many people affected, this is an unacceptable period, as they often want to achieve a result quickly, for example, the refraining of discriminatory behaviour of the defendant.

Legal proceedings can generally be expensive. In addition to the costs of lawyers, which vary depending on the amount in dispute, there are also court costs. The party who loses the case shall bear the costs of the proceedings and the costs of the other party. Although there are legal expense insurances or legal aid, not all complainants have these at their disposal. The more protracted a procedure is and the more instances it goes through, the more costs may arise. Potential high costs of legal proceedings through the various instances deter many potential complainants.

Moreover, there are only a few lawyers that are specialized in the General Act on Equal Treatment (AGG). Most of these lawyers are working in the sector of labour law in which the AGG regularly finds application. The lack of specialisation of these lawyers within judicial anti-discrimination proceedings results in obstacles, because, with insufficient knowledge, rights are not recognized and enforced.

Most people affected by discrimination have not undergone a legal education and have not received knowledge about their own rights in terms of equal treatment, therefore they cannot defend themselves. Even though some of them know the basics of the General Act on Equal Treatment, it is not guaranteed that they are able to recognize the legal criteria for discrimination and which rights may be applicable. Furthermore, the legal language of the General Act on Equal Treatment is difficult to access. There are anti-discrimination agencies where affected people can get clarification and advice regarding their rights and claims.

Due to these obstacles, it is important that potential complainants get the opportunity to be supported in their concerns by qualified associations. This dossier will supply information about support through associations in Germany and other European countries.