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    In 2014, the ECJ was presented with a preliminary reference from the District Court in Kolding on the matter of whether EU law provides protection against discrimination on grounds of obesity with regard to employment and occupation. Following the ECJ’s ruling, first the District Court and later the High Court found that an employee’s obesity as such did not constitute a disability within the meaning of Directive 2000/78/EC establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation since his obesity had not constituted a limitation or inconvenience in the performance of his job.


Christian K. Clasen
Christian K. Clasen is a partner at Norrbom Vinding.

    On 16 December 2020, the Supreme Court of Lithuania (Cassation Court) delivered a ruling in a case where an employee claimed that the employer, JSC ‘Lithuanian Railways’, did not apply the regulations of the company’s employer-level collective agreement and did not pay a special bonus – an anniversary benefit (i.e. a benefit paid to employees on reaching a certain age) – because the employee was not a member of the trade union which had signed the collective agreement. According to the employee, she was discriminated against because of her membership of another trade union, i.e membership of the ‘wrong’ trade union.
    The Supreme Court held that combatting discrimination under certain grounds falls within the competence and scope of EU law, but that discrimination on the grounds of trade union membership is not distinguished as a form of discrimination. Also, the Court ruled that in this case (contrary to what the employee claimed in her cassation appeal) Article 157 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) is not applicable because it regulates the prohibition of discrimination on other (sex) grounds. Moreover, the Court found that there was no legal basis for relying on the relevant case law of the ECJ which provides clarification on other forms of discrimination, but not on discrimination based on trade union membership.


Vida Petrylaitė
Vida Petrylaitė is an associate professor at Vilnius university.
Case Reports

2021/4 Budget considerations can justify indirect discrimination (UK)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 1 2021
Trefwoorden Discrimination General, Age Discrimination
Auteurs Carolyn Soakell
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    If an employer has a policy which is indirectly discriminatory and the employer’s aim is no more than saving money, the Court of Appeal (CA) has ruled that this cannot justify the discrimination. However, needing to balance the books can potentially be a valid justification for indirect discrimination.


Carolyn Soakell
Carolyn Soakell is a partner at Lewis Silkin LLP.

    An adjudication officer of the Irish Workplace Relations Commission has ruled that an upper age limit for entrance to An Garda Síochána (the national police force) was discriminatory on the grounds of age.


Orla O’Leary
Orla O’Learny is a Senior Associate at Mason, Hayes & Curran.
Case Reports

2020/18 Prohibition of dismissal of pregnant employee (RO)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 2 2020
Trefwoorden Gender discrimination
Auteurs Andreea Suciu en Teodora Mănăilă
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Analysing the national legal framework in relation to the protection of pregnant employees and employees who have recently given birth or are breastfeeding, provisions which transposed the regulations of Directive 92/85/EEC and of the conclusions in case C-103/16, Jessica Porras Guisado – v – Bankia S.A. and Others, the Constitutional Court of Romania ascertained that the dismissal prohibition of a pregnant employee is strictly restricted to reasons that have a direct connection with the employee’s pregnancy status. As for other cases where the termination of the employment contract is the result of disciplinary misconduct, unexcused absence from work, non-observance of labour discipline, or termination of employment for economic reasons or collective redundancies, the employer must submit in writing well-reasoned grounds for dismissal.


Andreea Suciu
Andreea Suciu is Managing Partner and attorney-at-law at Suciu | The Employment Law Firm, Bucharest, Romania.

Teodora Mănăilă
Teodora Mănăilă is Managing Partner and attorney-at-law at Suciu | The Employment Law Firm, Bucharest, Romania.

    The Supreme Court of the Netherlands has quashed a verdict of the Court of Appeal that held that a social plan provision stipulating the capping of a redundancy allowance in view of an entitlement to early retirement pension was invalid because of age discrimination. According to the Supreme Court, a more marginal justification test should have been applied to a social plan. The Court of Appeal, moreover, did not consider all the legitimate aims it specified and should also have taken additional social plan measures as well as pension measures from the past into account. By not doing so, it was not properly examined whether the social plan constituted age discrimination.


Albertine Veldman
Albertine Veldman is a lecturer in European and Dutch labour law at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

    The Belgian Court of Cassation (Supreme Court), in a decision of 20 January 2020, has ruled that the prohibition for an employer to terminate the employment relationship of a worker for reasons related to a complaint for acts of violence and/or moral and/or sexual harassment at work does not, however, preclude the dismissal from being justified by motives inferred from the facts set out in the complaint.


Gautier Busschaert
Gautier Busschaert is an attorney-at-law at Van Olmen & Wynant, Brussels.

    The Federal Labour Court of Germany (Bundesarbeitsgericht, ‘BAG’) has decided that a social plan that distinguished between employees who were born in 1960 or later and employees who were born before 1960 for the calculation of severance payment did not constitute unjustified age discrimination. However, a regulation in a social plan which referred to the “earliest possible” entitlement to a statutory pension when calculating the severance payment constituted unjustified indirect discrimination against disabled persons.


Iness Gutt
Ines Gutt is an attorney-at-law at Luther Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH.

    The Federal Labour Court of Germany (Bundesarbeitsgericht, ‘BAG’) had to decide on a case in which an employee claimed vacation entitlements for the release phase of a partial retirement scheme. Because the employee was released from his work obligation during the release phase of the partial retirement under the so-called ‘block model’ he was not entitled to statutory leave so that the lawsuit was unsuccessful in the final instance.


Othmar K. Traber
Othmar K. Traber is a partner at Ahlers & Vogel Rechtsanwälte PartG mbB in Bremen, www.ahlers-vogel.com.

    The Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court in a decision of 24 June 2019 has ruled that the mere comparison between the job descriptions of employees is not sufficient basis for establishing whether the employees are carrying out the same work or work of equal value and the courts should also take into consideration the practical aspects of the work, the specific working conditions and the tasks actually carried out.


Kalina Tchakarova
Kalina Tchakarova is a partner at Djingov, Gouginski, Kyutchukov and Velichkov.

    The Danish Western High Court recently found that an employee who had entered into a severance agreement – and who was represented by her professional organisation during this process – was barred from claiming compensation under the Danish Anti-Discrimination Act, implementing Directive 2000/78.


Christian K. Clasen
Christian K. Clasen is a partner at Norrbom Vinding, Copenhagen.

    The Brussels Labour Court of Appeal, in a judgment of 10 September 2019, has ruled that the notion of ‘maternity’ contained in the Belgian Gender Act does not go as far as protecting mothers against discrimination with regards to childcare, since this would confirm a patriarchal role pattern. However, a recent legislative change introducing ‘paternity’ as a protected ground might cast doubt on the relevance of this ruling for the future.


Gautier Busschaert
Gautier Busschaert is an attorney-at-law at Van Olmen & Wynant, Brussels.
Case Reports

2020/6 Supreme Court judgment on the concept of comparable permanent employees (DK)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden Fixed-term work, Other forms of discrimination
Auteurs Christian K. Clasen
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In a recent case on fixed-term employment, the Danish Supreme Court addressed the question of what constitutes a comparable permanent employee. The Supreme Court ruled that four employees, who worked in a government agency, were not comparable with the agency’s permanent employees and for this reason they had not been discriminated against on the grounds of their fixed-term contracts.


Christian K. Clasen
Christian K. Clasen is a partner at Norrbom Vinding, Copenhagen.

    Relying on the prohibition of age discrimination stemming from Directive 2000/78, the Brussels Labour Tribunal, in a judgment of 28 November 2019, ruled that an age limit of 25 for the recruitment of air traffic controllers constituted direct discrimination. Its decision was grounded on the fact that even if there are objective reasons related to air traffic safety which may justify setting an age limit for applicants, the employer must adduce concrete evidence based on scientific facts.


Gautier Busschaert
Gautier Busschaert is an attorney-at-law at Van Olmen & Wynant, Brussels.
Case Reports

2020/8 Right of temporary workers to the same pay for the same work (LT)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 1 2020
Trefwoorden Temporary agency work, Other forms of discrimination
Auteurs Vida Petrylaitė
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    On 20 June 2019, Vilnius Regional Court in Lithuania (instance of appeal) delivered a decision in a case where the applicants claimed that a temporary employment agency, UAB Manpower Lit (the ‘Agency’), which recruited temporary workers (‘claimants’) for the European Institute for Gender Equality (‘EIGE’), paid them lower salaries than permanent staff. It was ruled that the Agency had discriminated against these workers by paying them lower salaries than they would have received if they had been recruited directly by EIGE. The Court also ordered the payment of pay arrears for a certain period to the temporary staff.


Vida Petrylaitė
Vida Petrylaitė is an associate professor at Vilnius University.

    The European Commission recently conducted a public consultation on the measures that may be taken to ensure the full application of the principle of equal pay between women and men. Its evaluation report is expected before the end of this year. The new Swiss legislation on monitoring and disclosure of the gender pay gap may be inspiration for future EU initiatives in this area.


Sara Rousselle-Ruffieux
Sara Rousselle-Ruffieux is an attorney-at-law at Lenz & Staehelin, Geneva, Switzerland.
Case Reports

2019/43 Dismissal after childbirth-related leave (DK)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 4 2019
Trefwoorden Gender discrimination
Auteurs Christian K. Clasen
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    The Danish Western High Court has ruled that the dismissal of an employee shortly after returning from childbirth-related leave did not constitute discrimination within the meaning of the Danish Act on Equal Treatment of Men and Women.


Christian K. Clasen
Christian K. Clasen is a partner at Norrbom Vinding, Copenhagen.

    The Court of Appeal (CA) has ruled that it was unlawful to discriminate against an employee because of a mistaken perception that she had a progressive condition which would make her unable to perform the full functions of the role in future.


Bethan Carney
Bethan Carney is a Managing Practice Development Lawyer at Lewis Silkin LLP.
Case Reports

2019/41 A question of age discrimination (NL)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 4 2019
Trefwoorden Age discrimination
Auteurs Claire Huijts
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    The Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeal did not properly examine whether the difference of treatment of employees based on a social plan may be justified.


Claire Huijts
Claire Huijts is an attorney-at-law at Pels Rijcken, The Hague, The Netherlands.

    Relying on the prohibition of age discrimination stemming from Directive 2000/78, the Labour Tribunal of Leuven refused to apply a Collective Labour Agreement establishing the minimum monthly salary for employees depending on their work experience even if not relevant and the Royal Decree enforcing it. The jurisdiction grounded its decision on the fact that this gave a strong advantage to older employees without objective justification.


Gautier Busschaert
Gautier Busschaert is an attorney-at-law at Van Olmen & Wynant, Brussels, Belgium.
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