Bulgarian law provides for the compulsory retirement of University professors at age 68. The law only permits extensions of employment beyond 65 on the basis of fixed-term contracts. A University in Sofi a terminated a lecturer’s employment in accordance with this law and the employee brought a claim. The case made its way to the ECJ, which was tasked with considering whether the Bulgarian national law was age discriminatory.
The ECJ looked at whether the national law was capable of being justifi ed. Was it a proportionate (appropriate and necessary) means of achieving a legitimate aim? The university and the government argued that the national law pursued social policy outcomes. Specifi cally, they argued that recruiting younger employees and allocating posts between the generations improved the delivery of quality teaching. The court accepted these were potentially legitimate aims. It did not comment on whether the aims were in fact being pursued, and whether the means adopted to achieve those aims were appropriate and necessary. These are questions for the national court to determine.
There have been a number of recent national and European cases providing guidance on justifi cation of retirement ages. This particular case confi rms that the quality of professional services and intergenerational fairness can be potentially legitimate aims. The UK national default retirement age will be repealed from October 2011. Employers planning to continue to operate a retirement age after this date will need to be able to justify that practice. Cases such as this one provide useful guidance which employers should consider in future proofi ng their retirement policies. A key point emerging from a number of cases (including this one) is that it will be easier to justify a retirement age which corresponds to the age at which pension provision begins.
Georgiev v Tehnicheski universitet - Sofi a, fi lial Plovdiv (C- 250/09; C-268/09)