A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services" at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year.
Prostitution was legalised in Germany just over two years ago and brothel owners –- who must pay tax and employee health insurance –- were granted access to official databases of jobseekers.
The waitress, an unemployed information technology professional, had said that she was willing to work in a bar at night and had worked in a cafe.
She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her "profile" and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.
Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job –- including in the sex industry –- or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.
The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.
When the waitress looked into suing the job centre, she found out that it had not broken the law. Job centres that refuse to penalise people who turn down a job by cutting their benefits face legal action from the potential employer.
"There is now nothing in the law to stop women from being sent into the sex industry," said Merchthild Garweg, a lawyer from Hamburg who specialises in such cases. "The new regulations say that working in the sex industry is not immoral any more, and so jobs cannot be turned down without a risk to benefits."
Turns out I do have a comment: What if
Hat tip to Pejmanesque.
UPDATE: Contrary to the histrionics of a certain self-appointed blogospheric standards arbiter, there is absolutely no evidence that this story is a hoax. It is certainly the case that some media used sensationalist headlines that distorted the fact pattern, but the body of this particular story remain "undebunked."
The perpertrator of the "hoax hoax" has a history of straining to discredit other bloggers for the sake of his (her?) own self-aggrandizement (i.e., "Ha-ha, look at me, I'm smarter than you!"). His/her argument essentially consists of "The Telegraph is a tabloid," "a name is misspelled in the article" and "'lefty rags' have reported it, so it must be false." One might also note his (her?) apparent fetish for the word "official" (e.g., "this story is officially bunk") -- since when is ChicagoBoyz an "official" anything? (He/She once insisted that I issue a correction regarding the "official" breed of my own dog!).
Meanwhile, the Telegraph has not issued a retraction, its competitors have not pounced to disprove it, the German government has not disputed the incident (the policy implications, yes, but not the incident), neither has the bordello; the woman has not recanted.
He/she also posts the following --
All further blogger speculation on this subject should end immediately.
What a very blogospheric response -- "rush to (counter-)judgment; don't dig any deeper. Just shut up -- because I say so."
(UPDATE: Meanwhile, weeks later, he/she/it is still blogging about it. So much for "standards" and "intellectual consistency." Go figure.)
EPILOGUE: This comes by way of The Eclectic Econoclast:
Norman Seibrasse has just posted to the Econ-Law e-mail list run by Lloyd Cohen that the answer is a qualified "yes".The entrepreneurial brothel owner mentioned ... earlier ... was apparently the first brothel owner to use the system and when she did the algorithm matched the job to the waitress. A letter was then automatically generated informing her of the opportunity. There is a box to check to accept or decline the job on a form which must be returned. When she declined, the system automatically cut her benefits. To this point everything happened without human intervention. She then complained to human authorities who immediately recognized the match as an error and reinstated her benefits.
The algorithm was immediately changed.
So, to review: The incident did happen, though not by any conscious policy decision within the German government. Fair enough.
The neurotic adolescent blogger I referenced above, meanwhile, who still insists on calling this story a "hoax," continues a sad descent into mental illness, as his incoherent manifesto on the subject demonstrates. Quite sad, really.