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43/75 Defrenne v Sabena

[1976] ECR 455

Case summary last updated at 13/02/2020 20:36 by the Oxbridge Notes in-house law team.

Judgement for the case 43/75 Defrenne v Sabena

P was an air hostess who did the same work but was paid less than male air stewards. EC treaty article 141 requires that member states ensure the “application of the principle that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work.” The terms “equal pay” and “work” were not defined and the article was imprecise. Neither the EC Commission nor the member states considered it precise enough to have direct effect. However the ECJ isolated instances of obvious inequality where the facts were simple, but said that it would not apply to cases where it was necessary to establish complex factual questions, e.g. the “value of work” in jobs of a different nature. The present case was one of clear factual inequality so that in this case direct effect was granted. ECJ said it was irrelevant whether the pay arrangements were made in the public or private sector: Article 141 had direct effect to both (i.e. despite not using these words the ECJ has said that treaty articles that are clear, negative etc have horizontal AND vertical direct effect) 

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