The ECJ has held that a German law, which prevented individuals over the age of 30 applying to the fire service, was lawful. The German Government had a legitimate aim of ensuring the operational capacity and effective functioning of the professional fire service. The German Government had shown a genuine and determining occupational requirement (GOR) for the age limit and that it was an appropriate and proportionate means of achieving its aim.

Uncontested medical evidence showed that very few officers over the age of 45 years of age would have sufficient physical capacity to perform the fire fighting part of their activities. The age limit on recruitment was required in order to ensure that officers could perform the high physical requirements for a comparatively long part of their career and to permit the assignment of older officers to less physically demanding duties, whilst at the same time ensuring that there are sufficient younger officers to replace them on front line duties.

This is the first reported ECJ decision relating to the GOR defence in relation to age discrimination and the court took a broad approach. The outcome differs from the decision of a UK employment tribunal last year (Baker v National Air Traffic Services) that an age limit of 36 on recruitment could not be justified for air traffic controllers. However, in the UK case, there was no evidence that performance generally declined with age and the opposite was true in this ECJ decision (Wolf v Stadt Frankfurt am Main).