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Sexism at your workplace ... is never okay!

Published on Jan 17, 2014 Tags: , ,
Do people at work treat you unfairly or belittle you? Do they bully you or exclude you? If this happens because of your gender or sexual orientation, it‘s called sexual discrimination. There are many forms of sexual discrimination: sometimes open, often subtle, but always firmly rooted in social life, and thus often tolerated. People who experience workplace sexual discrimination often remain silent for fear of attracting attention or because they are ashamed. One in two women has already experienced sexual discrimination at her workplace. FAU Berlin addresses sexism at the workplace in an information brochure.

The text of this article has also been published as a brochure. You can download the German version here in PDF format.

Sexual discrimination

Do people at work treat you unfairly or belittle you? Do they bully you or exclude you? If this happens because of your gender or sexual orientation, it‘s called sexual discrimination. There are many forms of sexual discrimination: sometimes open, often subtle, but always firmly rooted in social life, and thus often tolerated. People who experience workplace sexual discrimination often remain silent for fear of attracting attention or because they are ashamed. One in two women has already  experienced sexual discrimination at her workplace, according to a report by the International Labor Organization.

The majority of victims of sexual discrimination are women, and homosexuals and transgender people also face discrimination at the workplace. Sexism and sexual discrimination drive a wedge between workers. They prevent a society based on solidarity.

Gender Pay Gap (Einkommensungleichheit)

In Germany, the average net hourly wage for women is 22 percent below that for men. The difference in the rest of the EU is only 16 percent. The pay gap is caused above all by career breaks, higher numbers of women working in low-paying jobs, lower qualifications on average, more part-time work and fewer promotions to executive positions.

Sexual harassment

One of the most common types of sexual discrimination in the workplace is sexual harassment. This includes demeaning and lewd comments (such as “Come sit on my lap!”), unwelcome touching, sexual propositions, transgression of personal boundaries and workplace norms, and pornographic images that are meant to upset, anger or humiliate women.

Nobody should feel like they have no support at the workplace, and we should all feel responsible for creating an environment where all colleagues can feel comfortable and where there is no room for harassment. Sexual harassment can affect migrant workers and refugees disproportionately because of language barriers, their legal status and racism.

Are you experiencing sexual discrimination at your workplace?

  • Say "no" loud and clear.
  • Use physical force if necessary.
  • Note the date, place and time of theincident. (This can be used as evidence in case legal action is taken.)
  • Find witnesses and record theirstatements.
  • Confide in someone you trust at work or a member of your union.
  • Complain to your boss and demand that harassment be prevented in future.
  • Ask us for advice.

Have you witnessed sexual discrimination at your workplace?

  • Pay close attention.
  • Help affected colleagues defend themselves.
  • Find allies.
  • Don’t laugh when colleagues make fun of others.
  • Talk openly with your colleagues about sexual discrimination.
  • Offer to go get advice together with the affected person.

From maternity protection to minijobs

Maternity protection laws
(Mutterschutzgesetz)

A pregnant woman can take leave for the last 6 weeks of pregnancy and does not have to work until 8 weeks after birth. She is entitled to continued pay during this period without deductions. She cannot be fired during her entire pregnancy and for four months after birth.

Mothers-to-be have special legal protection in Germany. However, other social security benefits that follow up on maternity protection tend to tie woman workers to the home, turning them into housewives rather than protecting their rights at the workplace. Women are promoted less often because of the possibility that they might get pregnant. Women also tend to get transferred within companies after their parental leave is over. And women in general work in low-paying jobs more often than men. Women today might go back to work sooner than ever after childbirth, but they are still especially at risk for poverty. The legislators force many women into jobs where they do not earn a living wage. They then become financially dependent on social security or their partner.

We demand comprehensive protection for all mothers-to-be and guaranteed child care after birth, which will make returning to work easier for all parents.

A fighting union ...

Anti-discrimination law
(Antidiskriminierungsgesetz)

Germany‘s anti-discrimination law is meant to protect against discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, beliefs, disabilities and age. Harassment is also recognized as a form of discrimination.

... allows us to collectively take action against sexism and sexual discrimination at our place of work and beyond.

Laws have changed in recent years, allowing victims to take effective legal actions against sexual discrimination. Harassment at work can lead directly to criminal charges, depending on the severity of the discrimination. Bosses are also obliged to take action against discrimination. If they do not, then you can sue them for damages.

The FAU is a union that fights for the idea of a society based on solidarity. Taking action against sexism is not only an important task in the present, but also an integral part of any emancipation, which we as workers can only achieve collectively. We must take our responsibilities seriously and demand respect for ourselves and for our colleagues. We will not leave anybody on their own!

 

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