CJEU Case C-68/17 | IR v JQ

Author Details
Author (Corporate)
Publication Date 2017-2018
Content Type , ,


Information Guide focusing on Case C-68/17 from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which concerns discrimination on grounds of religion.

Further information:

JQ - a Roman Catholic individual - worked at a hospital where he was managed by IR, a limited liability company established under German law subject to the supervision of the Archbishop of Cologne (Germany). JQ divorced frim his first wife - to whom he had been married in accordance with the Roman Catholic rite - and married again in a civil ceremony without his first marriage having been annulled. Once IR discovered this, JQ was dismissed. In IR's view, by entering into a marriage that is invalid under canon law, JQ had infringed his duty of loyalty arising under his employment contract.

The employment contract refers to the Basic Regulations on employment relationships in the service of the Church (GrO 1993). They provide that the entry by a Catholic employee performing management duties into a marriage that is invalid under canon law is a serious breach of the duty of loyalty and justifies that person’s dismissal. According to the ethos of the Catholic Church, religious marriage is sacred and indissoluble. In that context, German constitution grants to churches and the institutions affiliated to them a right of self-determination which allows them freely to manage their own affairs within certain limits.

JQ challenged his dismissal before the German labour courts on the ground that his remarriage was not a valid ground for dismissal. In JQ’s view, the dismissal was an infringement of the principle of equal treatment because, under the GrO 1993, the remarriage of a head of department of the Protestant faith or of no faith would not have had any consequences for the employment relationship between that person and IR.

The German Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) referred the matter to the CJEU in April 2017 for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Council Directive 2000/78/EC - also known as the Equal Treatment Directive. On 11 September 2018, the Court ruled that the dismissal of a Catholic doctor from a managerial position by a Catholic hospital due to his remarriage after a divorce may constitute unlawful discrimination on grounds of religion. It adds that the requirement that a Catholic doctor in a managerial position respect the Catholic Church’s notion of marriage as sacred and indissoluble does not appear to be a genuine, legitimate and justified occupational requirement, which is nevertheless a matter for the German Federal Labour Court to determine in this case.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
European Employment Lawyers Association (EELA): Summary: ECJ 11 September 2018, C-68/17 (IR – v – JQ), Unfair dismissal, Religious discrimination https://eela.eelc-updates.com/summary/eelc-2018-305095
Oxford University: Commercial Law Centre (CLC) Blog, 28/09/2018: Comment on C-68/17 IR/JQ https://blogs.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/commercial-law-centre/blog/2018/09/comment-c-6817-irjq

Deutsche Welle, 28/07/2016: Doctor sacked from Catholic clinic for remarrying https://p.dw.com/p/1JXPs
Politico, 11/09/2018: Catholic hospital broke EU law by firing doctor for remarriage, ECJ rules https://www.politico.eu/article/st-vinzenz-hospital-dusseldorf-catholic-hospital-broke-eu-law-by-firing-doctor-for-remarriage-ecj-rules/

CJEU CURIA: Case C-68/17: IR v JQ https://curia.europa.eu/juris/documents.jsf?num=C-68/17
CJEU: Press Release No 73/18, 31/05/2018: Advocate General’s Opinion in Case C-68/17 IR v JQ https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-05/cp180073en.pdf
CJEU: Press Release No 127/18, 11/09/2018: Judgment in Case C-68/17 IR v JQ https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2018-09/cp180127en.pdf

Subject Categories , ,
Subject Tags , ,
Keywords ,
Countries / Regions
International Organisations