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Germany: self-employed woman granted right to know the wages of male colleagues on permanent contracts
Planet Labor, 29 June 2020, n°12030 -

Germany’s Federal Labour Court (BAG) ruled in favour of freelance political journalist Birte Meier on Thursday 25 June, when she demanded the right to know the salary levels of her male colleagues on permanent contracts (case Az. 8 AZR 145/19). Since 2007, the journalist has been working for an investigative programme on Germany’s second largest public TV station, ZDF, as a freelance journalist but under conditions similar to those of employees on permanent contracts. In 2014, Ms Meier discovered that her male colleagues on permanent contracts, with less seniority and fewer qualifications, earn more than she does. After unsuccessfully approaching her employer, the journalist filed a complaint to obtain the same salary as well as damages. To achieve this, however, German law (Entgelttransparenzgesetz see article n°10143) requires that the woman must be able to prove that the pay gap with male colleagues is precisely down to gender. To do so, the complainant must know how much the ‘competing’ group of employees are paid. Up to now, however, under German law and case law only employees with permanent contracts are entitled to access this information. For this reason, Ms Meier’s complaint failed at the first and second attempts. However, the Federal Labour Court considered that since the German law on wage transparency is a transposition of the European directive on equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women (2006/54/EC), it was necessary to align with the concepts of this directive, which does not differentiate between permanent employees and self-employed individuals working under similar conditions to those with a permanent contract. This judgement still does not guarantee that Ms Meier will win her case on the issue of equal pay, but it will enable her to relaunch the legal action in progress on the matter. Commentators believe that the ruling on 25 June will have repercussions in many other areas.