Defrenne v SABENA (No 2) [1976]

  • Created by: channyx
  • Created on: 20-03-20 23:11


Ms Gabrielle Defrenne was a long-standing employee of the Société anonyme belge de navigation aérienne (SABENA), the former Belgian national airline, working as a flight attendant. Having worked for the airline since 1951 and under her latest contract signed in 1961, she was obliged—as a female member of cabin crew—to cease employment when aged 40. Ms Defrenne received an allowance when her employment ended in February 1968.

In March 1968, Ms Defrenne brought an action before Brussels' Tribunal du travail (employment tribunal), seeking compensation for losses suffered relating to salary, allowance, termination of service, and pension, resulting from unequal pay given to male 'cabin stewards' and female 'air hostesses'. Ms Defrenne's contract of employment stated that her duties were those of 'Cabin Steward and Air Hostess—Principal Cabin Attendant'. The Tribunal dismissed her claim as unfounded.

On appeal, Brussels' Cour du travail (Labour Court) upheld the lower court's decision on all grounds except equal pay, which triggered a preliminary reference to the Court of Justice. The Cour du travail asked two questions on the effect and interpretation of Art. 119 EEC (now Art. 157 TFEU) regarding equal pay for men and women.

1. Did Art. 119 EEC (now Art. 157 TFEU) introduce directly into national law the principle that men and women should receive equal pay…


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