C-555/07 Kucukdeveci v Swedex GmbH [2010]

C-555/07 Kücükdeveci v Swedex GmbH & Co KG [2010] ECR I-365 is a landmark decision in EU labour law, establishing a general principle against discrimination and in favour of equal treatment in all EU member states.

Ms Kücükdeveci contested the German service-related statutory minimum notice period, arguing that it was discriminatory against young people as it disregarded employment before the age of 25. Employed by Swedex at the age of 18, she was dismissed in 2006 after ten years of service. Under the German Civil Code, BGB §622, she received only one month's notice, which she claimed was discriminatory due to the under-25 exception. The German government justified the provision by citing flexibility for employers in dismissing young workers who are expected to be more mobile. The questions raised included whether age qualifications for notice periods were discriminatory, whether they were justified, and if unjustifiable, whether private citizens could directly challenge employers.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), in its Grand Chamber, ruled that the legislation was contrary to the Employment Equality Framework Directive 2000/78/EC and, following the precedent set by Mangold v Helm [2005], recognised a general principle of equality inherent in all of EU law. The Charter of Fundamental Rights, particularly Article 21(1), reinforced this principle, carrying the same legal weight as the treaties under TEU Article 6(1).

The ECJ held that the legislation in BGB §622 was discriminatory, and there was insufficient objective justification for the measure. While the German government's aim to boost youth employment was legitimate, the measure was deemed disproportionate.

Additionally, the ECJ established that national courts have a duty to disapply any provision of national legislation conflicting with the principle of equal treatment. Importantly, they are not compelled to refer the matter to the ECJ first. It was clarified that the application of EU law is contingent upon a cross-border issue, emphasising its reach in cases with an international dimension. The ruling affirmed the overarching commitment to equal treatment across the EU and empowered national courts to take decisive action in cases of discrimination without necessitating prior referral to the ECJ.
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