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Police height limit may discriminate against women: EU Court

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Police height limit may discriminate against women: EU Court

Justice - Photo © Yanchenko - Fotolia

(LUXEMBOURG) - A Greek law laying down a minimum height requirement irrespective of sex, as a criterion for admission to a police school, may discriminate against women, the EU's top court ruled on Wednesday.

The case concerns a competition notice for enrolment in the Greek police school published for the academic year 2007/2008. This cited a provision of Greek law which provided that all candidates, irrespective of their sex, must be at least 1.70 metres tall. The application of a Ms Marie-Eleni Kalliri to take part in the competition for entry into the police school was refused on the ground that she was not of the height required.

Ms Kalliri appealed against the decision at the Greek Court of Appeal in Athens, with the claim that she had suffered discrimination on grounds of sex.

The court then annulled that decision, declaring the Greek law
was contrary to the constitutional principle of equality between men and women.

The Greek Minister for the Interior and the Greek Minister for Education and Religious Affairs appealed against that decision before the Council of State.

That court asked the Court of Justice whether EU law precluded a national law which lays down a minimum height requirement for all candidates, male and female, for the competition for entry into the police school.

The European Court of Justice has now found that the fixing of a minimum height requirement for all candidates, male and female, constitutes indirect sex discrimination since it works to the disadvantage of far more women than men.

However, it clarifies that such a provision of law does not constitute indirect discrimination where two conditions, which it is for the national court to determine, are met: (1) the provision of law must be objectively justified by a legitimate objective, such as the operational capacity and proper functioning of police services, and (2) the means of achieving that aim must be appropriate and necessary.

In that regard, the Court said that while it is true that certain police functions may require the use of physical force requiring a particular physical aptitude, the fact remains that other functions, such as providing assistance to citizens or traffic control, do not clearly require the use of significant physical force.

Furthermore, even if all the functions carried out by the Greek police required a particular physical aptitude, it would not appear that such an aptitude is necessarily connected with being of a certain minimum height.

In any event, the objective of ensuring the effective accomplishment of the task of the police could be achieved by measures that are less disadvantageous to women, such as a pre-selection of candidates allowing their physical ability to be assessed.

Judgment in Case C-409/16 - Maria-Elleni Kalliri v Ypourgos Esoterikon and Ypourgos Ehtnikis Paideias kai Thriskevmaton

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