Defrenne v Sabena Airlines: ECJ 15 Jun 1978

LMA Ms Defrenne was an air hostess employed by SABENA, a Belgian airline company. She brought an action against the airline based on Art.119 [now141] EC. Ms Defrenne claimed that in paying their male stewards more than their air hostesses, when they performed identical tasks, Sabena were in breach of Art.119EC. The question to the ECJ was whether, and in what context, Art.199EC was directly effective. The ECJ held ‘the prohibition on discrimination between men and women applies not only to the action of public authorities but also extends to all agreements which are intended to regulate paid labour collectively, as well as to contracts between individuals’
Europa Article 119 of the EEC Treaty, which is limited to the question of pay discrimination between men and women workers, constitutes a special rule, whose application is linked to precise factors. It cannot be interpreted as prescribing, in addition to equal pay, equality in respect of the other working conditions applicable to men and women. The fact that the fixing of certain conditions of employment – such as a special age-limit – may have pecuniary consequences is not sufficient to bring such conditions within the field of application of article 119, which is based on the close connection which exists between the nature of the services provided and the amount of remuneration.
Fundamental personal human rights form part of the general principles of community law, the observance of which the court has a duty to ensure. The elimination of discrimination based on sex forms part of those fundamental rights. However, it is not for the court to enforce the observance of that rule of non-discrimination in respect of relationships between employer and employee which are a matter exclusively for national law.


[1979] ECR 1365, C-149/77, R-149/77, [1978] EUECJ R-149/77




see alsoGabrielle Defrenne v Belgian State ECJ 25-May-1971
ECJ The concept of pay as defined in article 119 of the EEC Treaty does not include social security schemes or benefits directly governed by legislation without any element of agreement within the undertaking or . .
See alsoDefrenne v Sabena (No 2) ECJ 8-Apr-1976
ECJ The principle that men and women should receive equal pay, which is laid down by article 119, is one of the foundations of the community. It may be relied on before the national courts. These courts have a . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

European, Employment, Discrimination

Updated: 21 May 2022; Ref: scu.132571