The European Court of Justice (ECJ) [official website] on Tuesday struck down [judgment; press release, PDF] a Hungarian law [text, PDF] that lowered the mandatory retirement age for judges. Hungary's Law No LXVII of 1997 on the legal status and remuneration of judge was amended in 2011 to require all judges, prosecutors and notaries to retire at the age of 62 instead of 70 as was previously stipulated in the law. Hungary said the change in the retirement age was intended to redress positive discrimination in favor of those persons affected because, in contrast to other public sector employees, they could not only continue to work until the age of 70 but could also, in several cases, combine their salary with the retirement pension to which they were entitled from the time at which they reached retirement age. The European Commission [official website], however, argued that the Hungarian legislation at issue violated Article 2 of Directive 2000/78/EC [text] in that it gave rise to age-based discrimination between, on the one hand, judges, prosecutors and notaries who have reached the age-limit for retirement fixed by that legislation and, on the other hand, those persons who may continue to work. The ECJ said:
The disputed national measures, pursuant to which the fact that a worker has reached the retirement age laid down by that legislation leads to automatic termination of his employment contract, must be regarded as directly imposing less favorable treatment of workers who have reached that age as compared with all other persons in the labor force. Such legislation therefore establishes a difference in treatment directly based on age.The ECJ went on to say that because the amended law on the retirement age of judges, prosecutors and notaries was not proportionate to the objectives Hungary was pursing Hungary failed to fulfil its obligations under Articles 2 and 6(1) of Directive 2000/78.
In 2007, the ECJ upheld [JURIST report] mandatory retirement ages in the EU, saying that mandatory retirement policies do not violate the prohibition against age discrimination if the policy is intended to further the legitimate public interest of increasing employment and the retirees are provided with full pensions. The EU prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, and sexual orientation. Directive 2000/78/EC is intended to implement the principle of equal treatment and eliminate inequalities within the EU, but does not prohibit national governments from instituting retirement ages.