C-144/04 Mangold v Helm [2005]

In C-144/04 Mangold v Helm [2005] ECR I-9981, the central issue was age discrimination in employment. Mr Mangold, a 56-year-old German man, was employed on a fixed-term contract in a permanent full-time position. The German government had introduced the Employment Promotion Act 1996, which allowed fixed-term contracts for a maximum of two years, except for those over 60, later amended to 52. Mr Mangold challenged the lack of protection against discrimination for those over 52, asserting that it was unjustified age discrimination.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that the German law contravened the Employment Equality Framework Directive, even though the directive was not required to be implemented until the end of 2006. The court asserted that legislation allowing employers to treat individuals differently based on age contradicted the principle in international law of eliminating discrimination on the basis of age. Moreover, the ECJ ruled that national courts must set aside any provision of national law conflicting with the directive, even before the implementation period expires.

The court highlighted the problematic consequences of the German legislation, emphasising that workers over the age of 52 were subject to potential exclusion from stable employment solely based on their age. It argued that such legislation, using age as the sole criterion for fixed-term contracts, lacked objective necessity and proportionality.

This case holds significance for three main reasons. Firstly, the case established that equal treatment is a general principle of EU law, allowing private citizens to claim equal treatment even in horizontal situations without waiting for the implementation of a directive. Secondly, it affirmed that member state and EU legislation, including directives, can be challenged for non-compliance with the general principle of equal treatment. Thirdly, the court's remarks were not limited to existing grounds of discrimination in equal treatment directives, opening the possibility for claims against discrimination based on characteristics beyond those explicitly mentioned in the directives, such as caste, education, property, or military service. The case expanded the scope of equal treatment under EU law, reflecting principles akin to those found in the European Convention on Human Rights.
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