A couple of cases on age discrimination which I thought may be of interest.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has given rulings in relation to two German cases on age discrimination, holding that the relevant policies were justified in both cases.

The first case related to a claim by an applicant for a position as a fire-fighter with the German fire service. The applicant, Mr Wolf, was not considered for the role because of the local requirement that recruitment to roles within the fire service requiring fire-fighting and rescue were only open to the under 30s. The ECJ concluded that the German Government was justified in putting this age limit on applicants because it was a genuine occupational requirement which was intended to ensure that once fire-fighters were trained they would be physically able to devote 15 to 20 years to the job. This meant that it was justified in rejecting Mr Wolf, despite him being only a few months over the age limit.

In the other case, the ECJ considered whether it was age discrimination for the German Government to require dentists in the German National Health Service to retire at 68. It rejected the argument that the age limit was justified by the fact that competence reduces from that age and it was therefore necessary to impose the age limit to protect patients. This was on the basis that dentists could continue to practice outside the National Health Service without the same age restriction. However, the ECJ concluded that it was possible for the age limit to be justified where the local labour market required it. In this context, where there were not enough opportunities for younger workers because the job market was saturated, an upper age limit of 68 could be justified in the interests of allowing entry to the market for younger workers.

The second case in particular is interesting as it shows that the ECJ will take “wider” reasons such as a country’s labour market into account when determining whether or not an individual has been discriminated against.