(CN) – The European Court of Justice released a ruling reconciling a ban on age discrimination with the possibility of age limits for firefighting and dentistry in Germany.
Colin Wolf challenged the city of Frankfort for denying him a firefighting job because he was older than 30 when the recruitment term came around. Domnica Peterson, who had practiced as a dentist since 1974, protested the denial of health insurance reimbursement for her patients when she passed 68 years old.
The Court of Justice said that national measures for the protection of health could supplant the prohibition on age discrimination. For firefighters, the court cited a study by the German government indicating that few individuals over age 45 have the physical capacity to fight fires. This would ensure any firefighter a relatively long career, the court reasoned.
For dentists, the high court agreed with the national court that an age limit is justified by the need to protect patients from declining performance. But it said that such a limit must apply across the board, not only for panel-certified dentists within the public sector, but also for private practitioners.
The Court of Justice also agreed that such a limit is reasonable to provide work positions for young dentists, but only if it can be proven to fulfill this purpose.
In response to labor shortages in the dental sector, the German government rescinded mandatory retirement for panel dentists in 2008.
Caps on working age continue to be an issue in Germany, where a chronically high unemployment rate has spurred discussion of mandatory retirement. The national unemployment rate is currently around 8 percent; in 2006 the rate reached nearly 12 percent, and hovered around 10 percent from 2000 until then.