Social Security / Healthcare : Discrimination on Grounds of Sickness Cannot Be Penalised

Article excerpt

The European Court of Justice ruled on 11 July that discrimination on grounds of sickness at work cannot be penalised in the context of EU law since no specific provisions apply. This is the first time the Court has issued a ruling on the subject. Besides the Commission, six governments (Spain, Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom) intervened (Chacon Navas / Eurest, Case C-13/05).

Sonia Chacon Navas was employed by Eurest, an undertaking specialising in catering in Spain. Dismissed on grounds of sickness by her employer, which offered compensation, Ms Chacon Navas challenged her dismissal as null and void (and not just illegal) and demanded her reinstatement.

DISCRIMINATORY DISMISSAL PROHIBITED

Responding to the Madrid Social Court's request for a preliminary ruling, the Court of Justice first indicates that the Directive of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation applies in the event of discriminatory dismissal. It bars dismissal on the basis of disability which in view of the obligation "to accommodate the needs of disabled people at the workplace" is not justified by the fact that "the individual is not competent, capable and available to perform the essential functions of the post concerned".

SICKNESS IS NOT A DISABILITY

However, the text identifies disability and not sickness as the cause of discrimination. …