The Court of the Justice of the European Union ruled Tuesday that Poland violated the laws of the European Union when the country distinguished between the retirement age of male and female judges and prosecutors and gave the Minister of Justice more authority than allowed by law.
In July 2017, Poland created a law that lowered the retirement age for judges of the ordinary courts and public prosecutors, as well as the early retirement age for member judges of the Sąd Najwyższy (Supreme Court). The age was previously 67 years for both men and women, but the law lowered it to 60 years for women and 65 years for men. The law also contained a provision that allowed the Minister for Justice to extend the period of active service of judges beyond these set ages, which differ based on sex.
In its ruling, the court addressed both the distinguishing between male and female retirement ages, as well as the additional power that was granted to the Minister of Justice.
In a press release, the Court stated that the retirement pensions to which those judges and public prosecutors are entitled fall under EU law to which the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work is required, as well as Directive 2006/54, which is devoted to equal treatment in occupational social security schemes.
“The Court holds that that law introduced directly discriminatory conditions based on sex, in particular as regards the time when the persons concerned may have actual access to the advantages provided for by the pension schemes concerned,” the release said.
Poland argued that the law created positive discrimination when it set different ages for male and female judges and prosecutors. The Court rejected this argument on the grounds that the “differences do not offset the disadvantages to which the careers of female public servants are exposed by helping them in their professional life and by providing a remedy for the problems which they may encounter in the course of their career.”
The Court ruled that the combination of the lowering of the retirement age and the new power granted to the Minister for Justice directly conflicted with the principle of irremovability, which requires that “judges may remain in post provided that they have not reached the obligatory retirement age or until the expiry of their mandate, where that mandate is for a fixed term.”