Justice: badly negotiated? Woman insists on equal pay

She was offered 3,500 euros a month during the training period - the woman said yes.

Justice: badly negotiated? Woman insists on equal pay

She was offered 3,500 euros a month during the training period - the woman said yes. But soon she had doubts and the suspicion that her colleague, who was hired two months earlier and is doing the same sales job, is earning significantly more. On Thursday, the highest German labor judges in Erfurt will deal with the case. Some hope for a fundamental judgment on the equal treatment of women and men.

The case

The woman was unlucky when she demanded from the Saxon metal company near Dresden the same pay as her male colleague who had just been hired. After all, the difference in basic salary during the probationary period was an impressive 1000 euros per month, later after the introduction of a collective agreement it was still around 500 euros - with the same responsibilities and powers, says the plaintiff.

Badly negotiated

Her employer justified the large salary difference by saying that she negotiated worse than her male colleague when she was hired. Both were initially given the same salary offer. The employer relied on the principle of contractual freedom for the different pay - and was successful with the labor and state labor court in Saxony.

The lawsuit

The Eighth Senate of the Federal Labor Court (BAG) is hearing about pay discrimination. The woman, who worked at the metal company from 2017 to 2019, sees herself disadvantaged because of her gender. The court should examine whether it is a violation of the principle of equal treatment.

She demands an additional payment of 14,500 euros and appropriate compensation for the discrimination suffered. She was supported on her way through the courts by the Society for Freedom Rights. Only a few women would go this lengthy path, so it is said by society, but also by trade unionists.

what it's about

According to a BAG spokeswoman, it is being checked whether there may have been objective, gender-neutral reasons for lower pay and whether the employer can withdraw from the fact that the plaintiff was offered the same basic salary as her colleague. "Can negotiation skills make a difference in earnings," asks Sarah Lincoln of the Civil Liberties Society.

The situation in Germany

The difference in pay between women and men is not uncommon in Germany - according to the Federal Statistical Office, the gender-specific pay gap was 18 percent last year. According to this, in 2022 women received an average gross hourly wage of EUR 20.05, EUR 4.31 less than men with EUR 24.36. The statistics office explains almost two-thirds of the wage gap with higher part-time quotas and lower salaries in occupations typical of women. An adjusted gap of around 7 percent of gross hourly wages remains with no clear explanation.

In 2006 the gap was still 23 percent. In East Germany, where the case is at play, the wage gap is smaller than in West Germany: 7 percent, in the West 19 percent.

law is of little help

The deputy chairwoman of the DGB, Elke Hannack, describes the Pay Transparency Act, which has been intended to ensure more equality since 2017, as a toothless tiger. "The hurdles for salary information are too high and no sanctions are planned," said Hannack of the German Press Agency in Erfurt. "The doors and gates are still wide open to discrimination against women in Germany." Lincoln of the Civil Liberties Society sees it similarly. "The law is too weak to protect women."

According to the Transparency Act, there are only rights to information on salaries in companies with 200 or more employees. You, but also Lincoln, are relying on a new EU directive, probably in the summer, which could also create more transparency in the payment of women in Germany. Although this would not solve the social problems of discrimination against women, it would reduce the operational causes of unequal treatment in terms of pay, according to Hannack.