Skip to main content

Mutual Disempowerment: Case C-441/14 Dansk Industri, acting on behalf of Ajos A/S v Estate of Karsten Eigil Rasmussen and Case no. 15/2014 Dansk Industri (DI) acting for Ajos A/S v The estate left by A

  • Urška Šadl and Sabine Mair
Hide All

Urška Šadl is Professor at the European University Institute Florence and Sabine Mair is a Doctoral Researcher at the European University Institute. The authors want to thank their colleagues at the Institute for valuable comments and dicussions.

Hide All

1 ECJ 19 April 2016, ECLI:EU:C:2016:278, Dansk Industri, acting on behalf of Ajos A/S v Estate of Karsten Eigil Rasmussen.

2 ECJ 22 November 2005, ECLI:EU:C:2005:709, Mangold v Helm.

3 ECJ 19 January 2010, ECLI:EU:C:2010:21, Kücükdeveci.

4 See, for instance, Herzog, W., ‘Stoppt Den Europäischen Gerichtshof!’ [Stop the European Court of Justice!], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 8 September 2008; Dashwood, A., ‘From Van Duyn to Mangold via Marshall: Reducing Direct Effect to Absurdity?’, 9 Cambridge Yearbook of European Legal Studies (2006) p. 81 ; Editorical Comments: The Court of Justice in the Limelight – Again’, 45 Common Market Law Review (2008) p. 1571 ; Herdegen, M., ‘General Principles of EU Law – The Methodological Challenge’, in U. Bernitz et al. (eds), General Principles of EC Law in a Process of Development (Kluwer Law International 2008); Schiek, D., ‘The ECJ Decision in Mangold: A Further Twist on Effects of Directives and Constitutional Relevance of Community Equality Legislation’, 35 Industrial Law Journal (2006) p. 329; De Mol, M., ‘The Novel Approach of the CJEU on the Horizontal Direct Effect of the EU Principle of Non-Discrimination: (Unbridled) Expansionism of EU Law?’, 18 Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law (2011) p. 109 .

5 See de Mol, M., ‘Dominguez: A Deafening Silence Court of Justice of the European Union (Grand Chamber). Judgment of 24 January 2012, Case C-282/1, Maribel Dominguez v Centre Informatique Du Centre Ouest Atlantique and Préfet de La Région Centre’, 8 European Constitutional Law Review (2012) p. 280 .

6 For a sobering account of judicial dialogue see Micklitz, H.-W., The Politics of Judicial Co-operation in the EU: Sunday Trading, Equal Treatment, and Good Faith (Cambridge University Press 2005).

7 Most recently, on 26 January 2017, the Italian Constitutional Court referred a preliminary question to Luxembourg challenging the Court’s decision in ECJ 8 September 2015, ECLI:EU:C:2015:555, Taricco and Others) because it struggled with its implementation in practice.

8 For the characterisation of the Danish Supreme Court as a rather reluctant participant in judicial dialogue see Elo Rytter, J. and Wind, M., ‘In Need of Juristocracy? The Silence of Denmark in the Development of European Legal Norms’, 9 International Journal of Constitutional Law (2011) p. 470 .

9 Karen Alter argued that the willingness of national courts to cooperate with the Court of Justice was based on the empowerment thesis: the national courts gained ground in their national legal systems; in exchange, they empowered the Court of Justice: Alter, K.J., The European Court’s Political Power: Selected Essays (Oxford University Press 2009).

10 Tuori, K., Critical Legal Positivism (Ashgate 2002).

11 MacCormick, N. and Summers, R.S., Interpreting Statutes: A Comparative Study (Dartmouth 1991) p. 463 .

12 ECJ 12 October 2010, ECLI:EU:C:2010:600, Ingeniørforeningen i Danmark.

13 The Employment Directive was implemented by the Danish Parliament in 2004. The legislator considered that the Employment Directive did not affect the severance allowance rules of the Law on Salaried Employees (Art. 2a), that is, the national provision in dispute in the Ajos case. The Act of Parliament no. 1417 of December 22, 2004 is available at <>, visited 25 March 2017. The Law on Salaried Employees has since been amended several times, including the contested provision, which was amended in 2015 and now applies to all employees irrespective of age.

14 Opinion of Advocate General Bot in Dansk Industri, supra n. 1.

15 Ibid., point 64.

16 Ibid., points 34 and 35.

17 Ibid., point 57.

18 Ibid., point 68.

19 Ibid., point 69.

20 Ibid., point 70.

21 Ibid., point 59.

22 Ibid., point 61, AG Bot, referring to the Opinion of AG Kokott in Ingeniørforeningen i Danmark, supra n. 12, point 84.

23 Opinion of AG Kokott in Ingeniørforeningen i Danmark, supra n. 12, point 63.

24 Opinion of AG Bot in Dansk Industri, supra n. 1, point 71.

25 Kücükdeveci, supra n. 3.

26 Dansk Industri, supra n. 1, para. 29, citing ECJ 5 October 2004, ECLI:EU:C:2004:584, Pfeiffer, para. 111, and Kücükdeveci, supra n. 3, para. 45.

27 Dansk Industri, supra n. 1, para. 30 ff, with references to ECJ 26 February 1986, ECLI:EU:C:1986:84, Marshall, para. 48; ECJ 14 July 1994, ECLI:EU:C:1994:292, Faccini Dori, para. 20; and Pfeiffer, supra n. 26, para. 108.

28 Pfeiffer, supra n. 26, paras. 113 and 114, and Kücükdeveci, supra n. 3, para. 48.

29 National courts are never required to adopt contra legem interpretation, which the Court also stressed.

30 ECJ 10 April 1984, ECLI:EU:C:1984:153, von Colson and Kamann, para. 26, and Kücükdeveci, supra n. 3, para. 47.

31 Dansk Industri, supra n. 1, para. 33.

32 Ibid., para. 34.

33 Ibid., para. 37.

34 Ibid., para. 40, with reference to ECJ 29 September 2015, ECLI:EU:C:2015:635, Gmina Wrocław, paras. 44 and 45 and the case law cited.

35 Ibid., para. 41, with reference to ECJ 8 April 1976, ECLI:EU:C:1976:56, Defrenne, para. 75, and ECJ 17 May 1990, ECLI:EU:C:1990:209, Barber, paras. 44 and 45.

36 Case No. 15/2014 Dansk Industri (DI) acting for Ajos A/S vs. The estate left by A, available at <>, visited 25 March 2017.

37 Ibid. Unofficial translation.

38 Ibid. Unofficial translation.

39 The term coined in Shapiro, M., ‘Comparative Law and Comparative Politics’, 53 Southern California Law Review (1979) p. 537 .

40 Defrenne, supra n. 35.

41 Mangold v Helm, supra n. 2; Kücükdeveci, supra n. 3.

42 Kücükdeveci, supra n. 3, para. 21.

43 ECJ 9 March 1978, ECLI:EU:C:1978:49, Amministrazione delle Finanze dello Stato v Simmenthal and ECJ 19 June 1990, ECLI:EU:C:1990:257, Factortame.

44 Kücükdeveci, supra n. 3, paras. 51 and 53.

45 ECJ 13 July 2000, ECLI:EU:C:2000:402, Centrosteel, para. 17.

46 Defrenne, supra n. 35, para. 75, and Barber, supra n. 35, paras. 44 and 45.

47 ECJ 4 July 2006, ECLI:EU:C:2006:443, Adeneler, para. 110. For a general discussion see Craig, P., ‘The Legal Effect of Directives: Policy, Rules and Exceptions, 34(3) European Law Review (2009) p. 349 .

48 Interestingly, the judgment of the Danish Supreme Court disregards the Opinion of AG Bot in this case, while referring to the same Advocate General in the discussion of Kücükdeveci.

49 Mangold provoked a fierce reaction of the legal community (and the general public) but eventually the German Constitutional Court complied with the guidelines.

50 The Danish Supreme Court makes several references to the law-making activity of the Court of Justice, which adopts decisively different methods of interpretation, in particular the objective-teleological method, and its past law-making activity. It demonstrates this contrasting approach with multiple references to legislative text and legislative intent.

51 For criticism, see de S. O. L’E Lasser, M., Judicial Deliberations: A Comparative Analysis of Judicial Transparency and Legitimacy (Oxford University Press 2009).

52 Christensen, B., Rettens forhold til regeringen efter 1849 [The Court’s relationship with the Government after 1849], in HØJESTERET 1661–1961 [THE SUPREME COURT 1661–1961] p. 407, 408.

53 Rytter, and Wind, , supra n. 8.

54 Ibid., p. 475.

55 Ibid., fn. 32.

56 This underlies a specific conception of rights, according to which rights are never neutral and always underlies a specific collective good or general interest. See for instance Raz, , infra n. 62; Weiler, J.H.H., The Constitution of Europe: ‘Do the New Clothes Have an Emperor?’ And Other Essays on European Integration (Cambridge University Press 1999) p. 102-128. For a critique of such conception of rights, see for instance Waldron, J., ‘Rights as Trumps’, in J. Waldron (ed.), Theories of Rights (Oxford University Press 1984).

57 It was the ideal of Enlightenment philosophers like Locke and Rousseau, and provided the basis for the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the US Constitution. As Schaar writes, ‘[e]quality is a protean word. It is one of those political symbols […] into which men have poured the deep urgings of their hearts’: Schaar, J., ‘Equality of Opportunity, and Beyond’, in J. Roland Pennock and J.W. Chapman (eds.), Equality (Aldine Transaction 2007).

58 Westen, P., ‘The Empty Idea of Equality’, 95 Harvard Law Review (1982) p. 537 at p. 547.

59 This tertium comparationis upon which a decision of likeness is made is the gateway to understanding the value base upon which a non-discrimination case decision is taken. See Baer, S., ‘Equality: The Jurisprudence of the German Constitutional Court’, 5 Columbia Journal of European Law (1999) p. 249 ; Westen, , supra n. 58, p. 537 .

60 For an intriguing argument along these lines, see for instance Komárek, J., ‘National Constitutional Courts in the European Constitutional Democracy’, 12 International Journal of Constitutional Law (2014) p. 525 .

61 See Cartabia, M., ‘Europe and Rights: Taking Dialogue Seriously’, 5(1) EuConst (2009) p. 5 .

62 This interpretation of private and public autonomy underlies a perfectionist understanding of individual freedom and autonomy, see Raz, J., The Morality of Freedom (Oxford University Press 1988).

63 Many terms have been used to describe the interest of a collective (as opposed to the interest of the individual), such as public autonomy, collective good, general interest etc.

64 J. Komárek suggests that national courts are generally better equipped to decide on fundamental rights matters due to their tendency to take issues of public autonomy seriously into account. We believe that the answer is not so straightforward, and that it depends on the value judgement underlying the respective right. Neither is it convincing to argue that a national court is generally better equipped to decide on fundamental rights issues, as J. Komárek claims, nor can we claim that the Court of Justice is generally the best forum for adjudicating fundamental rights. AG Kokott’s Opinion in Andersen seems to be grounded in the latter approach, as she compares matters of non-discrimination on grounds of age with those of pregnancy and gender, a comparison that is mind-boggling (Recital 38, CJEU), as the nature of the right of non-discrimination on grounds of age and gender could not be more disparate. Unfortunately, the case-note is too short to explain this argument in greater detail.

65 On this basis, employers, in the event of the dismissal of an employee who has been employed for 12, 15, and 18 years, have to pay the employee a severance allowance corresponding respectively to one, two, or three months’ salary. Several exceptions to this rule exist, such as that the employer does not have to pay the severance allowance if the employee has reached pensionable age. As one derogation to this rule, the employer is freed of this obligation if the employee, on termination of the employment relationship, is entitled to an old-age pension (Art. 2a(2)) and/or receives an old age pension from the employer and the employee has joined the pension scheme in question before attaining the age of 50 (Art. 2a(3)).

66 Ingeniørforeningen i Danmark, supra n. 12, paras. 23-24.

67 For a discussion of what ’objective and reasonable’ means, see the Opinion of AG Kokott in Ingeniørforeningen i Danmark, supra n. 12, paras. 41-45.

68 See Kilpatrick, C., ‘The Court of Justice and Labour Law in 2010: A New EU Discrimination Law Architecture’, 40 Industrial Law Journal (2011) p. 280 at p. 291-295; Dewhurst, E., ‘The Development of EU Case-Law on Age Discrimination in Employment: “Will You Still Need Me? Will You Still Feed Me? When I’m Sixty-Four”’, 19 European Law Journal (2013) p. 517 at p. 526.

69 See Dewhurst, , supra n. 68, p. 535 .

70 The Court decided that it was up to the national court to balance the legitimate aims of the Member State with suitable measures ‘on the basis of political, economic, social, demographic and/or budgetary considerations and having regard to the actual situation in the labour market in a particular Member State, to prolong people’s working life or, conversely to provide for early retirement’: ECJ 16 October 2007, ECLI:EU:C:2007:604, Felix Palacios de la Villa v Cortefiel Servicios SA, para. 69.

71 Kilpatrick, , supra n. 53, p. 293 .

72 In Mangold, the Court argued that the German measure, which had an age threshold of 52, would not benefit the legitimate aim of integrating older workers into the workforce as they could be offered an indefinite number of fixed-term contracts until retirement.

73 In some cases, the choice of comparator is very obvious, such as in Roca Álvarez where it was obvious that the situation of, respectively, men and women was being compared. In age discrimination cases, the choice is more difficult, as many different age categories can serve as comparator. The comparator chosen by the Court in Andersen only becomes apparent with the add-on to the proportionality test in Recital 44.

74 Macnicol, J., Age Discrimination: An Historical and Contemporary Analysis (Cambridge University Press 2006) p. 11 .

75 Ibid., p. 10-11.

76 Ingeniørforeningen i Danmark, supra n. 12, para 44.

77 Opinion of AG Kokott in Ingeniørforeningen i Danmark, supra n. 55, para. 65.

* Urška Šadl is Professor at the European University Institute Florence and Sabine Mair is a Doctoral Researcher at the European University Institute. The authors want to thank their colleagues at the Institute for valuable comments and dicussions.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

European Constitutional Law Review
  • ISSN: 1574-0196
  • EISSN: 1744-5515
  • URL: /core/journals/european-constitutional-law-review
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed