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Friendhy Approach in German Courts

July 29, 1998

HAMM, German (AP) _ A court may not be able to order someone to be pals with his co-workers, but in Germany it can insist he speak with them as such.

A state court in North Rhine-Westphalia said Wednesday that a 45-year-old department head at a clothing store had to follow company policy and use the relaxed form of address at work.

The German language has formal and informal forms of the pronoun ``you,″ with the polite form, ``Sie,″ generally used for managerial and older co-workers as a sign of respect. Some companies require use of the more familiar form, ``du,″ to promote a collegial environment.

Reinhard Weniger, who works for the Swedish H&M company, complained that using ``du″ among colleagues was a fashion of the younger generation that made him uncomfortable and affected his work.

The court rejected his exemption request, saying employees had approved H&M’s policy when their company, Dyckhoff, was taken over by the Swedes.

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