Key facts of the case:
Civil service — ECB Staff — Programme of support for transition to a career outside the ECB — Rejection of an application to take part in that programme — Eligibility conditions — Different lengths of service required depending on whether a member of staff is in a single salary band or a salary broadband — Allocation to a salary band on the basis of the type of employment — Equal treatment — Proportionality — Manifest error of assessment.
Outcome of the case:
THE GENERAL COURT (First Chamber) hereby:
27) By the first two pleas, the applicant puts forward a plea of unlawfulness in respect of Article 2.3.1 of the Staff Rules, a provision which the contested decision applies to him. The first plea alleges infringement of the principle of equal treatment and of the principle of proportionality and a manifest error of assessment and the second plea alleges infringement of Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’) and of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation (OJ 2000 L 303, p. 16), on grounds of discrimination based on age.
37) As a preliminary point, it must be recalled that the principle of equal treatment, which is a general principle of EU law, enshrined in Articles 20 and 21 of the Charter and which applies to EU civil service law, requires, inter alia, that comparable situations must not be treated differently unless such treatment is objectively justified (see, to that effect, judgments of 12 November 2014, Guardian Industries and Guardian Europe v Commission, C‑580/12 P, EU:C:2014:2363, paragraph 51 and the case-law cited, and of 16 July 2015, EJ and Others v Commission, F‑112/14, EU:F:2015:90, paragraph 65 and the case-law cited).
69) It should be recalled that the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age, which is a general principle of EU law, was given specific expression by Directive 2000/78 in the field of employment and occupation (judgment of 19 January 2010, Kücükdeveci, C‑555/07, EU:C:2010:21, paragraph 21) and that the prohibition of any discrimination on grounds, inter alia, of age is laid down in Article 21 of the Charter. Moreover, not only is Directive 2000/78 a source of inspiration in disputes concerning the staff of the EU institutions as regards determining the obligations of the competent regulatory authority with regard to the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of age (see, to that effect, judgment of 7 February 2019, RK v Council, T‑11/17, EU:T:2019:65, paragraphs 68 to 70 and the case-law cited), but it is also binding on the ECB by virtue of Article 9(c) of the Conditions of Employment.
81) Furthermore, even assuming that there may be a link in the present case between the years-of-service criterion and age, it should be noted that, in any event, any difference in treatment would appear to be justified on the same grounds, relating to the interests of the service, as those set out in paragraphs 48 and 50 to 54 above, in the context of the response to the first plea, since the principle of non-discrimination, based inter alia on grounds of age, laid down in Article 21 of the Charter, is merely a particular expression of the principle of equal treatment, which is enshrined in Article 20 of the Charter (see, to that effect, judgment of 7 February 2019, RK v Council, T‑11/17, EU:T:2019:65, paragraph 60 and the case-law cited).