German rail found guilty of discriminating against non-binary customer by calling them ‘Mr.’

Deutsche Bahn must either scrap its Mr. and Mrs. binary address, or add a third, gender-neutral form

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Junge Freiheit

The Higher Regional Court (OLG) in Frankfurt am Main has found state railway Deutsche Bahn guilty of discrimination because it addressed a self-proclaimed non-binary customer as “Mr.” The company now faces a fine of €250,000 for each individual case in which a gender-neutral customer is addressed incorrectly.

The judgment has far-reaching consequences. Effective immediately, the company may no longer use the previously customary salutations when issuing tickets, in customer service letters, or in advertising and stored data. The court did not allow a transitional period for this, claiming the changes were “technically feasible as well as reasonable in terms of finances and personnel.”

Starting next year, the booking system must also be changed in such a way that Deutsche Bahn no longer only addresses its customers with “Mr.” or “Mrs.” The company must either drop the address completely or find a third form of address, but it is unclear what that form may be.

The original complaint came from a customer who calls themself René_Rain Hornstein — the underscore and middle name are meant to indicate his sexual diversity. In the eyes of the Higher Regional Court, the railway company ignored this “non-binary” orientation and thus discriminated against the passenger. Therefore, the group now has to pay compensation of €1,000 because, according to the judges, the plaintiff suffered immaterial damage. They reportedly considered “the attribution of masculinity” as an attack on oneself, and that led to significant mental stress.

For Deutsche Bahn, which sees itself “as a group for a culture of equal opportunities and appreciation,” diversity is a top priority, the company said. Gender-appropriate language has already been introduced in all areas of the company.

“There are still no universally recognized standards for addressing non-binary gender people in the German-speaking world,” said a spokeswoman for Die Welt. Even within the group of people affected, the ideas about this are currently still very different.

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