The Court acknowledged that the purpose of this German law "is plainly to promote the integration into working life of unemployed older workers". As a rule, such an objective justifies, "objectively and reasonably", a difference of treatment on grounds of age. "However, a provision of national law such as that contained in the TzBfG goes beyond what is appropriate and necessary to attain the legitimate objective pursued", it concluded.
While member states enjoy broad discretion in their choice of measures to reach social and employment policy goals, the German law clearly goes too far, according to the Court. It leads to a situation in which all workers who have reached the age of 52 may lawfully, until their retirement, be offered fixed-term contracts of employment which can be renewed indefinitely. The consequence is that for a substantial part of their working lives, these workers are in danger of being excluded from stable employment, which "constitutes a major element in the protection of workers". In this case, according to the Court, it has not been shown that fixing an age threshold is necessary to attain the objective of integrating into working life older unemployed persons.
Several questions were referred to the Court by the Arbeitsgericht Munchen (Munich Labour Court) for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Directive 2000/78 in...