A woman in Stuttgart recently applied for a job and was turned down. No big story there. But then the firm returned her application, with a remark left on it by the employer — a minus sign, circled, obviously meaning something negative, and then the word “ossi”, a name given by West Germans to their “new” (it’s been over 20 years now) compatriots from the former East Germany. (They, in turn, refer to their new neighbors as “wessis”.) Like names for minorities and other groups in America, it’s not always denigrating but isn’t exactly complimentary. And in this case it’s clearly the reason why she was turned down, although exactly what characteristics the firm attributes to “ossis”, that might not fit with a job offer, I can’t even imagine.
Anyway, the woman wished to bring a discrimination case against the firm, but hit a snag along the way; on what basis were they prejudiced? It is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their ethnic background, but are people from the former East an ethnic group? This week an employment court in Stuttgart decided, no. Not only are they just as German as their wessi comrades in Düsseldorf and Hamburg, but there is also plenty of ethnic diversity amongst them, if you are counting Saxons, Thuringians, Prussians, and Sorbs. But, everybody knew this. The woman may have been unfairly treated, but she can’t claim ethnic discrimination in court.
The firm came out with the explanation that the remark, for internal viewing only, was meant in a positive way, and that only the minus stood for her lack of qualifications. Uh huh.
And while the German media has been discussing the ramifications of the decision, somebody went out and made up T-shirts to sell. Hopefully an actual “ossi”.