Nogueira and Ors v Crewlink Ireland Ltd and Moreno Osacar v Ryanair

Employees carrying out work in two or more Member States may bring their claims before the courts of the Member State in which they perform the essential part of their duties, the CJEU ruled last month.

The claimants were cabin crew and a cabin services agent, employed by Crewlink and Ryanair respectively. Their employment contracts were in English, subject to Irish law, and included a clause providing that the Irish courts had jurisdiction in the event of any disputes between the parties. There was also a clause in the contracts which stated that the Claimants' services were deemed to be performed in Ireland, although their home base was a Belgian airport. When the claimants brought proceedings in Belgium in respect of their employment rights, their case was referred to the CJEU for a decision on whether the Belgian court had jurisdiction to hear the claims.

The CJEU held that, in a situation where an employee works in several States with no obvious centre of activity, the place where the employee habitually carries out their work, and thus the place where they are able to bring an employment claim, is defined as where the employee performs the essential part of their duties. The exclusive jurisdiction clause within the employees' contracts was also found to be unenforceable.

Since the court has consistently emphasised that the definition of the place where an employee habitually carries out their work should be interpreted broadly, this decision will not come as a surprise to employers. The judgment emphasised that the weaker party in a dispute – usually the employee –should be protected by ensuring jurisdiction rules are more favourable to their interests. It is also important to note that the case concerned the matter of where claims may be brought, not which law should apply to the contract. Contrary to some reports, the decision does not prevent Ryanair from insisting on Irish law applying to the employment contracts of foreign workers: this case relates to a court's jurisdiction to hear claims, and not governing law.