Gender is a hot topic – now judges have to deal with it too. Because a VW employee does not want to be addressed in gender-appropriate language and therefore goes to court.

The guidelines for gender-sensitive language presented by the car manufacturer Audi around a year ago will be dealt with by a civil division of the Ingolstadt district court on Tuesday (10:00 a.m.).

An employee of the parent company Volkswagen, who has to work with Audi colleagues, has sued Audi after the company refused to issue a cease-and-desist declaration. The plaintiff sees his general personal rights violated by the guidelines. (Az. 83 O 1394/21)

The guide caused controversy immediately after it was introduced in March 2021. At the time, Audi emphasized that in the future gender-sensitive formulations would be necessary in all internal and external letters from the company. The company suggests either neutral formulations (“manager” instead of “boss”) or the so-called gender gap, with which the male and female forms are connected with an underscore: This is how the previous “Audians” become “Audians”.

Considered as a model process

The plaintiff is bothered by the fact that he is addressed by Audi colleagues using gendered terms. According to his lawyers, he demands that the company refrain from mandating the use of the communication rules. The lawyers believe that language should not be specified in such concrete terms. You also regard the procedure as a model process that has an impact beyond Audi.

The lawsuit is supported by the German Language Association, which generally rejects gender and speaks of an “ideology”. Other language maintenance organizations see a need for gendering, but appeal to compliance with grammatical rules. The Society for the German Language sees double naming («pupils») positively, but the gender gap as problematic.

Audi itself does not want to make any concrete statement on the content of the ongoing proceedings. Apart from that, however, the company wants to maintain an organizational culture that is characterized by mutual respect and appreciation, said Audi spokesman Wolfgang Schmid. “The use of gender-sensitive language means communication that values ​​and takes into account all genders and gender identities.”