C-569/16 & C-570/16 Wuppertal v Bauer and Willmeroth v Broßonn [2018]

C-569/16 & C-570/16 Wuppertal v Bauer and Willmeroth v Broßonn [2018]

C-569/16 and C-570/16 Stadt Wuppertal v Maria Elisabeth Bauer and Volker Willmeroth v Martina Broßonn [2018] is an important EU law case delivered by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice on 6 November 2018, providing significant insights into the horizontal effect of rights in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Mrs Bauer and Mrs Brossonn sought to claim allowance in lieu of paid annual leave of their deceased husbands, which had been denied under German legislation. Notably, Mrs Bauer's husband worked for the state sector, while Mrs Brossonn's husband worked for a private company.

The central legal issue was whether German legislation, which barred claims by spouses of deceased workers for unclaimed paid annual leave, was compatible with Article 7 of the Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC and the right to paid annual leave under Article 31(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

In Bauer's case, German legislation was precluded by the directive through vertical direct effect. The court ruled that the directive was deemed to have sufficient precision and unconditionality to have direct effect, granting Mrs Bauer a claim against the state employer.

In Brossonn's case, German legislation was precluded by Article 31(2) of the Charter through horizontal direct effect. The court established the horizontal effect of Article 31(2), allowing reliance on this provision against private employers in a field covered by EU law and falling within the scope of the Charter.

The decision to combine cases against a public employer and a private employer in the same factual scenario is an important aspect of this joined case. This emphasises the need to mitigate unfairness arising from the non-horizontality of directives and addresses issues related to the effective protection of fundamental rights in horizontal situations.

The Court's distinction between rights, such as information and consultation, and rights like paid annual leave is highlighted. This distinction supports the assertion that the latter category of rights can have horizontal effect. Additionally, concerns around equality of treatment in private law disputes are acknowledged and considered relevant.

In summary, these judgments clarify the conditions under which rights in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights can have horizontal effect. They provide individuals with a basis to rely on such rights in disputes with private employers, particularly in areas covered by EU law, aiming to address issues related to the effective protection of fundamental rights in horizontal situations.
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