The role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in developing standards of protection against age discrimination

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Author: Elena Sorokina

DOI: 10.21128/2226-2059-2022-3-117-138

Keywords: human rights; Court of Justice of the European Union; general principles of law; prohibition of age discrimination; social law


Discrimination on the basis of age is not a new phenomenon, remains widespread in all areas of soci­ety, and has the potential to affect everyone’s life. Discrimination based on age is now prohibited by the European Union’s primary and secondary law. The EU age discrimination laws are interpreted by the EU Court of Justice. In the landmark 2005 Mangold case the Court of Justice held that the prohi­bition of discrimination based on age constitutes a general principle of EU law and should be seen as part of primary law. The question remains about how this principle is ensured in practice. The aim of this article is to present the evolution of EU anti-discrimination law in the context of efforts to oppose age discrimination and to analyze the relevant decisions of the Court of Justice. The most numerous categories of cases, those related to age discrimination and to a mandatory retirement age, were cho­sen for analysis. Judicial interpretations of EU legislation regarding age discrimination present an ambiguous picture. It is possible to find a number of the Court of Justice’s decisions which appear to be too flexible, giving broad discretion to Member States to assert a legitimate purpose that would justify discrimination. The Court of Justice does not always examine the necessity or appropriateness of proposed measures asserting such justifications, thus ultimately failing to provide meaningful protection against age discrimination. However, there are reasons to believe that the Court of Justice may be more demanding in the future in its analysis of the justification for national rules, since some of its case law shows that it is ready to intervene when it deems it necessary. The Court of Justice has the difficult task of keeping a balance between, on the one hand, the aim of establishing a strong and settled principle of non-discrimination based on age within a fundamental rights approach and, on the other, a concern about ageism, labor market necessities, and the traditions of the Member States.

About the author: Elena Sorokina – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Research Fellow of the Human Rights Department, Institute of State and Law, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Sorokina E. (2022) Rol’ Suda ES v razvitii standartov zashchity ot diskriminatsii po priznaku vozrasta [The role of the Court of Justice of the European Union in developing standards of protection against age discrimination]. Mezhdunarodnoe pravosudie, vol. 12, no. 3, pp. 117–138. (In Russian).


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