Luxembourg. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) considers the different regulations for full-time and part-time employees in chain employment contracts at Austrian universities to be potentially contrary to EU law. The reason for today's decision is the lawsuit brought by a researcher who has been employed at the Medical University of Vienna for twelve years on a fixed-term basis. In her complaint she saw an unequal treatment of women and men because different time limits for part-time and full-time employees apply at the universities when awarding fixed-term contracts in the context of research and third-party funded projects.
In its ruling, the European Court of Justice states that unequal treatment is justified if there are objective reasons for it. The Vienna Labor and Social Court must examine whether this is the case. On the basis of data, the court must clarify whether more women than men are actually affected by the different regulations and whether the regulations therefore discriminate against women.
The ECJ makes no statement on the question of whether chain employment contracts generally contradict EU law. The referring court had not requested clarification of this point. The EU Commission has shown less restraint here recently: In its statement, the Commission described the legal regulation of chain employment contracts at universities in Austria as generally contrary to EU law because it was not objectively justified. The stringing together of fixed-term employment contracts of up to twelve years serves to cover "the permanent and long-term" need for personnel. The EU Advocate General also agreed with this opinion and demanded that the ECJ should also examine chain contracts independently of possible discrimination against women.