German court rejects suit over gender-sensitive language

Jul 28, 2022, 8:36 PM | Updated: Jul 29, 2022, 8:41 am

BERLIN (AP) — A German court on Friday threw out a lawsuit against a guideline issued by automaker Audi that called for employees to use gender-sensitive language.

An employee of Audi’s parent company, Volkswagen, objected to Audi colleagues using such language in their communications with him and went to the state court in Audi’s home city of Ingolstadt to challenge the guideline. He alleged a violation of his personal rights.

But the court ruled the person who brought the lawsuit had no right to demand the non-application of the guidance, German news agency dpa reported. Judge Christoph Hellerbrand said it was directed only at Audi employees and the plaintiff. as a Volkswagen employee, was not required to follow it.

The court also found that being on the receiving end of gender-sensitive wording wasn’t enough to justify a ruling in the Volkswagen employee’s favor. He didn’t have a right “to be left in peace,” the judge ruled.

Some other companies have introduced similar guidelines.

German nouns referring to people and their professions have different masculine and feminine forms.

The Audi guideline in question was introduced last year. It called for the use of a form of German words that includes an underscore to encompass both masculine and feminine forms and is meant to show broader gender inclusiveness — writing “employees” as “Mitarbeiter_innen,” for example.

That and another gender-sensitive form that uses an asterisk — in which “employees” would be written as “Mitarbeiter(asterisk)innen” — annoy conservatives, some language experts and others.

They prefer more traditional forms such as the “generic masculine” — using the masculine plural, “Mitarbeiter,” to refer to all genders, or in some cases referring genders separately as “Mitarbeiterinnen und Mitarbeiter.”

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German court rejects suit over gender-sensitive language