Goethe-University’s Understanding of Discrimination

Discrimination describes various forms of disparagement, disadvantage, (sexualised) harassment, stigmatisation, derogation or exclusion based on the following actual or assumed characteristics:

  • Racist attributions concerning appearance, assumed or actual origin and/or religion, name etc.
  • Religious affiliation or belief
  • Sex and/or Gender
  • Sexual orientation and/or identity
  • impairments of health, chronic conditions, disabilities
  • Age
  • Social background and familial educational background as well as social and financial status
  • Care responsibilities within the family

Goethe University is committed to ensuring that no one is discriminated against, disadvantaged, disrespected or belittled in university life. It does not tolerate any form of discrimination, in particular of a racist, ethnicising, anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim nature, as well as discrimination related to gender and sexual identities and attributed or assumed or actual characteristics such as age, religion or ideology, disability, socio-economic background or status and other social stigmatisation.

The deciding factor for classifying an act or conduct as discrimination is in particular the result, i.e. the effect of a decision or action and not the underlying motive that led to this effect.

Discrimination as understood in the university's directive is based on attributions or affiliations that are part of socially relevant structures of inequality that have developed historically and lead systematically to disadvantages.

Discrimination occurs both as an individual or interactional act as well as on a structural or institutional level and must therefore be addressed accordingly on all these levels.

The definition of discrimination set down in the Anti-Discrimination Directive also recognises that people have multiple affiliations or experience various attributions and can therefore be affected by a specific interaction of various dimensions of discrimination.

Forms of discrimination and definitions (according to the Anti-Discrimination Directive ("Antidiskriminierungsrichtlinie" (German)):

Direct discrimination: A person is treated less favourably than another person is, has been or would be treated in a comparable situation because of a protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination: Seemingly neutral rules, criteria or procedures that disadvantage persons compared to other persons because of a protected characteristic.
Exception: A legitimate aim objectively justifies the rules concerned.

Harassment: Conduct in conjunction with a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity.
In particular: Where an environment is created that is characterised by intimidation, hostility, humiliation, degradation or insult.

Sexual harassment: Unwanted sexualised acts with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of the person affected.

  • This also includes requests for such acts, unwanted sexualised touching, lewd remarks, unwanted displaying or visible posting of sexualising or pornographic images.
  • Especially: (Sexualised) acts and conduct that are punishable under criminal law.

Bullying or stalking can also constitute harassment or sexual harassment.

Harassing behaviour can be both verbal and non-verbal – e.g. defamation, insults and derogatory remarks, hostility, threats and physical assault in conjunction with a protected characteristic.

Instruction to discriminate: A person is instructed by another to engage in conduct that discriminates or may discriminate against other persons because of a protected characteristic.


Equal Opportunities Office
Anti-Discrimination Office


Jana Arnold
Fon: +49 69 798-18134
E-mail: j.arnold@em.uni-frankfurt.de

Campus Westend, SKW-Building 
Room 05.C114
Rostocker Str. 2
60323 Frankfurt am Main

Postal address:
Equal Opportunities Office
Goethe University Frankfurt a.M.
Postbox 227
60629 Frankfurt am Main