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Germany rules parents with no day care options can sue cities for lost earnings

Germany's highest court has decided that muncipalities are the responsible party for the lack of legally-mandated day care spots for every child. The ruling comes after three mothers sued for lost earnings.

Germany's Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that parents may sue their town for lost earnings if there are no places for their child in day care facilities. The decision comes after a 2013 law guaranteeing a right to free care for German children above the age of one, a decision which left the question of responsibility shifting between Berlin, regional governments, and municipalities.

The court in Karlsruhe was answering a suit brought forward by three mothers from Leipzig who said that they could not return to work after the births of their children in 2013 and 2014 because no nurseries had free places for them. They charged that the authorities had neglected the duties given to them by the 2013 statute.

"This law is meant to improve the compatibility of work and family," said Chief Justice Ulrich Herrmann. The judge added the caveat that "the municipality cannot cite general financial bottlenecks" as a reason for lacking funds to construct kindergartens, as they are provided with money to this end from both the federal and state governments.

However, they may not be held responsible if they have made reasonable efforts to recruit the requisite amount of personnel for the facilities but have been unable to do so. The current suit now goes back to the regional court in Dresden to address these issues and just how much the city of Leipzig is liable to the three plaintiffs.

The mothers have asked for between 2,200 euros ($2,412) and 7,330 euros ($8,034) in lost earnings.

es/msh (dpa, Reuters)

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