Volume 48 (2011) / Issue 3
Although only addressed by EU law from 2000, age discrimination has been the theme of quite a few cases before the Court of Justice, with a high proportion decided by the Grand Chamber recently. This is due to the conceptual and theoretical challenges that a prohibition to use age as differentiating factor poses. After all, age has been an important stratifier used to synchronize life courses through welfare State regimes in Europe. Partly due to these traditions, there are stereotypes associated with old age, and young age, that in turn lead to disadvantage in employment. For the same reason, age discrimination frequently intersects with discrimination on other grounds, such as sex, race or disability. EU legislation on age discrimination has sought to accommodate the traditional role of age in employment policy by allowing wider justifications than for other forms of discrimination. This leads to contradictions within the larger field of discrimination law, which may even threaten to dilute its efficiency. This article analyses how recent case law of the Court of Justice, and in particular its Grand Chamber, deals with the theoretical challenges posed by these conflicting demands on age discrimination and on discrimination law at large.
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