France v Stoeckel, Court of Justice of the European Communities, 1991

Gender discrimination, employment discrimination. France had a long industrial and legal tradition prohibiting night work for women, accompanied by legislation which was aimed at protecting female workers. Alfred Stoekl, the manager of Suma SA, Obenheim, a business concerned with the packaging of audio and video cassettes, violated the ban by hiring female night workers and invoked the Equal Treatment Directive in his defense. The court held that in terms of protecting female workers, discrimination is only valid if there is a justified need for a difference of treatment as between men and women. However, whatever the disadvantages of night work may be, it does not seem that, except in the case of pregnancy or maternity, the risks to which women are exposed when working at night are, in general, inherently different from those to which men are exposed. Article 5 of Council Directive 76/207 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions is sufficiently precise to impose on the member-States the obligation not to lay down by legislation the principle that night work by women is prohibited, even if that is subject to exceptions, where night work by men is not prohibited. This case is important as its judgment led to France rejecting legislation prohibiting women from night work with effect from February 1993.




Court of Justice of the European Communities

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