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Case 43/75, Defrenne v. Sabena, 1976 E.C.R. 455.

Facts: the applicant brought an action before the Tribunal du travail, in Brussels for compensation for the loss she had incurred in terms of salary, allowance on termination of contract and pension in comparison with male members of the crew performing identical duties. The Belgian appeal court referred the case to the ECJ

Holding: The ECJ held that the equal pay provision of Article 119 had as its aims both economic and social functions. It ruled that article 119 EC "forms part for the social objectives of the Community, which is not merely an economic union, but at the same time intended, by common action, to ensure social progress and seek constant improvement of the living and working conditions".

Reasoning: the principle of equal pay for equal work would be binding not only upon member states but also, directly, upon private employers. So an individual can rely on some Treaty articles to enforce rights against another individual in the national courts. Direct and overt discrimination can be identified by the criteria set out under Article 119 of equal pay for equal work, whereas indirect and covert discrimination can be identified by reference to more explicit implementing provisions of a Community or national character. Direct forms of discrimination included discrimination that had their origins in legislative provisions or collective labor agreements that can be detected on the basis of a purely legal analysis of the situation


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