Case C-267/06 Maruko
European Court of Justice
1 April 2008
The life partner of Mr. Maruko (they entered into life partnership, regulation of which is provided by German law) was a member of a compulsory occupational pension institution connected to his workplace. After the death of Mr. Maruko’s partner he applied for a widower’s pension. The previously mentioned institution refused to pay the pension to Mr. Maruko as he was not the spouse of the deceased.
Question referred to the CJEU by the national court
Is legislation under which, after the death of his life partner, the surviving partner does not receive a survivor’s benefit equivalent to that granted to a surviving spouse, even though, like spouses, the life partners have been living in a union of mutual support and assistance which had been formally constituted for life, is compatible with the EU law?
Firstly the Court emphasized that the widower’s pension received from a pension scheme of the employer is to be considered as “pay”, because it is inseparably connected with the employment. Therefore the Directive 2000/78 must be applied to the particular situation.
Secondly, the abovementioned Directive, as reiterated by the Court, combats, as regards employment and occupation, certain forms of discrimination including that on grounds of sexual orientation.
Thirdly, the Court reminded that direct discrimination occurs where one person is treated less favourably than another person who is in a comparable situation.
As to the main issue the Court however concluded that it is for the national courts to determine whether life partners and spouses are in comparable situations. If the national courts decide that these persons are in comparable situations so far as concerns that survivor’s benefit, legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings must, as a consequence, be considered to constitute direct discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the meaning of the EU law.