Austrian Good Friday law ′discriminatory,′ top EU court rules | News | DW | 22.01.2019
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Austrian Good Friday law 'discriminatory,' top EU court rules

The European Court of Justice has ruled in favor of Markus Achatzi, who sued his company for extra pay for working on Good Friday. In Austria, only members of four churches get the Christian holy day as a public holiday.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday ruled that Austrian law discriminated on grounds of religion and belief for not giving plaintiff Markus Achatzi holiday pay for working on Good Friday, a holy day for several Christian denominations marking the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Security agent Achatzi sued his company, Cresco Investigation of Vienna, in 2017 for additional pay for working on Good Friday, considered a public holiday for members of select churches. Austria's Supreme Court asked the ECJ to rule whether the national law was discriminatory in nature.

What the ruling says:

  • Granting "paid public holiday on Good Friday only to employees who are members of certain churches constitutes discrimination on grounds of religion and is prohibited under EU law"
  • "Until Austria has amended its legislation, in order to restore equal treatment, a private employer who is subject to that legislation is obliged also to grant his other employees a public holiday on Good Friday"
  • "The Court concludes that the legislation at issue cannot be considered necessary for the protection of freedom of religion"

Read more: Top EU court rules church job ads open to discrimination scrutiny

What happened?

In Austria, Good Friday is considered a public holiday for members of the "Evangelical Churches of the Augsburg and Helvetic Confessions, the Old Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church."

Achatzi worked Good Friday in 2015, but did not receive a paid holiday or double pay for working because he did not belong to any of those churches. He sued his company for discriminating against him on religious grounds.

His case eventually reached the Austrian Supreme Court, which in turn asked the ECJ to rule whether the national law making Good Friday a public holiday for members of select churches was discriminatory in nature.

Read more: Opinion: The unexpected Reformation

How much was the plaintiff seeking?

Achatzi was seeking "a gross payment of 109 euros ($124) plus interest."

What is the situation in Germany?

In Germany, public holidays are chosen by states. Only German Unity Day on October 3 is designated a public holiday in federal law. Anyone working in Germany on a public holiday — regardless of creed or religion — is entitled to additional pay.

Read more: How Martin Luther influenced Martin Luther King Jr.

What happens next?

It is now up to the Austrian judiciary to settle the case in accordance with the ECJ's ruling since Europe's top court "does not decide the dispute itself."

Watch video 41:25

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