Church - not a sect

HR News
18 Aug 2010

a district court awarded a supermarket employee dkk 25 000 in compensation because his manager called his church a sect.

Yvonne Frederiksen
A district court awarded a supermarket employee DKK 25 000 in compensation because his manager called his church a sect.
Employers must provide a harassment-free working environment for their employees. Therefore, it is important that employers and managers set a good example, as shown in this case.
A guard at a supermarket was a minister in the Apostolic Church in his spare time. This led to a number of remarks from his manager, who referred to the church as a sect on several occasions. The guard did not like people speaking disparagingly about his church and therefore sued his employer, among other things for discrimination.
Derogatory remarks
Based on the oral evidence, the Court held that the manager had referred to the apostolic community as a sect on three occasions and that on at least one of those occasions his remarks could not be held to have been made in fun.
The Court said that the term ‘sect’ is usually used in a derogatory sense and that the manager could be assumed to know that the term was offensive to the guard – not least because the remarks came from the guard’s manager. On those grounds, the Court held that the harassment had been of such a nature as to constitute discrimination and ordered the employer to pay DKK 25 000 in compensation.
It is not yet known if the case will be appealed.


Norrbom Vinding notes

  • that the case shows that in the test of harassment the courts will consider the defendant’s conduct in detail; and

  • that the case also shows that the employee will not always be required to openly say that they find the conduct offensive for such remarks to be held to constitute harassment within the meaning of the Danish Anti-Discrimination Act.