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The European Court of Justice rules out age limit

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Legal news
calendar 28 August 2022
globus Denmark

A chairman of an employee organization could not be re-elected because of an age limit. The European Court of Justice ruled that the age limit is covered by the EU rules on non-discrimination. Now, the Danish High Court must take a decision in the specific case.

In 1993, a chairman was elected and ended up staying on the post until 2011, when she turned 63. In the years she was chairman, she received a monthly salary for her work. However, although she wanted to run for chairman again, she could not. This was due to a rule in the organization that, among other things, prohibited the election of a chairman who had turned 60 on the election day.

The chairman complained to the Danish Board of Equal Treatment, which agreed that she had been subject to discrimination based on her age. The organization did not follow the decision and was therefore brought before the Danish High Court and later to the European Court of Justice.

Discrimination, no matter the industry

The rules on non-discrimination also apply to elections in employee organizations. This was the conclusion of the European Court of Justice, which added that the non-discrimination rules cover any occupational activity - thereby also a paid occupation. For that reason, it is also irrelevant which industry is concerned.

The exceptions to the EU rules on non-discrimination are narrow, and only a few groups are exempted – for example, the prohibition does not apply to the military.

IUNO’s opinion

Only a few scenarios allow for a lawful age limit. The question, therefore, is whether it is even feasible, as employees are not the only group covered by the discrimination rules.

IUNO recommends that companies are aware of existing and future age limits. This could, for example, be useful for managing directors or members of the board of directors, who may not enjoy the same protection as employees.

[The European Court of Justice in case C-587/20 of 2 June 2022]

In 1993, a chairman was elected and ended up staying on the post until 2011, when she turned 63. In the years she was chairman, she received a monthly salary for her work. However, although she wanted to run for chairman again, she could not. This was due to a rule in the organization that, among other things, prohibited the election of a chairman who had turned 60 on the election day.

The chairman complained to the Danish Board of Equal Treatment, which agreed that she had been subject to discrimination based on her age. The organization did not follow the decision and was therefore brought before the Danish High Court and later to the European Court of Justice.

Discrimination, no matter the industry

The rules on non-discrimination also apply to elections in employee organizations. This was the conclusion of the European Court of Justice, which added that the non-discrimination rules cover any occupational activity - thereby also a paid occupation. For that reason, it is also irrelevant which industry is concerned.

The exceptions to the EU rules on non-discrimination are narrow, and only a few groups are exempted – for example, the prohibition does not apply to the military.

IUNO’s opinion

Only a few scenarios allow for a lawful age limit. The question, therefore, is whether it is even feasible, as employees are not the only group covered by the discrimination rules.

IUNO recommends that companies are aware of existing and future age limits. This could, for example, be useful for managing directors or members of the board of directors, who may not enjoy the same protection as employees.

[The European Court of Justice in case C-587/20 of 2 June 2022]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

Partner

Søren

Hessellund Klausen

Partner

Kirsten

Astrup

Senior associate

Cecillie

Groth Henriksen

Associate

Katrine

Matilde Ahlberg Purhus

Associate

Johan

Gustav Dein

Associate

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The team

Akina

Ørum Masaki

Legal Advisor

Alexandra

Jensen

Legal Advisor

Amalie

Starup Poulsen

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

Partner

Cecillie

Groth Henriksen

Associate

Emma

Sandner

Junior legal assistant

Johan

Gustav Dein

Associate

Julie

Meyer

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Katrine

Matilde Ahlberg Purhus

Associate

Kirsten

Astrup

Senior associate

Sofie

Aurora Braut Bache

Senior associate

Søren

Hessellund Klausen

Partner