The ECJ has given their judgment on a German law restricting applications to the fire service to those under 30.
The German fire service had an age limit of 30 years old for new recruits. Mr Wolf argued that this was direct age discrimination and submitted a claim to the German courts. It was referred to the ECJ.
The AG's opinion
A summary of the Advocate General's opinion is available here.
The ECJ's Decision
The ECJ looked at whether the direct discrimination inherent in setting an age limit could be capable of justification under Article 4(1) of the Framework Directive. This states that there is no discrimination where there is a “genuine and determining occupational requirement” which has a legitimate objective and is a proportional method of achieving that objective.
The ECJ ruled that ensuring a proper functioning of the emergency services is a relevant legitimate objective and referred to Recital 18 of the preamble to the Directive. This states that it does not require the emergency services to recruit those who do not have the capacity to carry out the range of functions in that job.
The German government submitted evidence showing that possession of 'high physical capacities' may be regarded as a genuine and determining occupational requirement for employment as a fire fighter, and accepted that physical capacities are related to age. It was accepted that very few people over 45 would have the exceptionally high physical capacity to fight fires.
The ECJ then looked at proportionality. It accepted that recruitment at an older age would mean that not enough fire fighters could be assigned to the most physically demanding duties and could not be assigned to those duties for a sufficiently long period of service.
As the ECJ found the German laws to be lawful under the occupational requirement defence under Article 4(1), it did not go on to look at the justification defence under Article 6(1).
This case seems to be the first ECJ decision to consider the genuine occupational requirement defence to age discrimination. The ECJ accepted that a decline in performance due to age is capable of justifying direct age discrimination.
Wolf -v- Stadt Frankfurt am Main C-229/08