Von Colson v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen (1984) Case 14/83 was a landmark case decided by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 1984. The case established the principle of indirect effect of EU law.
The case involved German social workers Sabine Von Colson and Elisabeth Kamann who applied to work in men's prisons run by the State of North Rhine-Westphalia but were rejected on the basis they were women. They argue that under the Equal Treatment Directive (76/207/EEC), member states are required to give effect to principle of equal treatment and prohibited from discrimination on the grounds of gender.
The ECJ held that the principle of indirect effect required national courts to interpret national law in a way that is consistent with EU law, in order to give full effect to the rights and obligations established by EU law. The Court held that national courts must take account of the objectives of EU law and interpret national law in light of those objectives.
The ruling established the principle of indirect effect, which allows individuals to rely on EU law in lawsuits against private organisations or individuals, rather than only being able to assert their rights in lawsuits against the government or public bodies. The ruling also ensures that national courts are required to interpret national law in a way that is consistent with EU law, even if the national law does not explicitly reference EU law.
Overall, the Von Colson v. Land Nordrhein-Westfalen case has played a significant role in shaping the development of EU law and the relationship between national law and EU law. It has expanded the scope of EU law and increased the ability of individuals to rely on EU law to assert their rights in national courts.
You can learn more about this topic and relevant case law with our EU Law notes.