• In the case of Case 14/83 Von Colson v Land Nordrhein-Westfalen [1984] ECR 1891, the European Court of Justice introduced the Von Colson principle that Member States must fulfil Treaty obligations and ensure national law gave effect to EU law.
  • This case concerned the doctrine of direct effect and indirect effect.
  • This EU law case was about employment and sex discrimination.

Facts of the Case

  • C was a social worker who was not allowed to work for a prison service because of her sex.
  • C contended this was sex discrimination and requested for compensation.


  • Do cases of sex discrimination lead to sanctions as per the equal pay rule of Council Directive 76/207/EEC?
  • Can employers discriminate against candidates on the basis of sex?
  • According to Directive 76/207/EEC, is there precedent on employment discrimination?

Held by European Court of Justice

  • C’s claim allowed – German Court had to give full effect under Article 10 of the Treaty of Rome and member state was liable for remedies though the Directive itself did not have direct effect.

Advocate General (Mme Simone Rozès)

Directive 76/207/EEC and Community law

  • National courts must interpret legislation to achieve the objective of the Directive in line with European Economic Community law.
  • “Full implementation of the directive does not require any specific form of sanction for unlawful discrimination, [but] it does entail that that sanction be such as to guarantee real and effective judicial protection”.
  • “Although Directive 76/207/EEC, for the purpose of imposing a sanction for the breach of the prohibition of discrimination, leaves the member-States free to choose between the different solutions suitable for achieving its objective, it nevertheless requires that if a member-State chooses to penalise breaches of that prohibition by the award of compensation, then in order to ensure that it is effective and that it has a deterrent effect, that compensation must in any event be adequate in relation to the damage sustained and must therefore amount to more than purely nominal compensation such as, for example, the reimbursement only of the expenses incurred in connection with the application”.

Editor’s Notes

  • This case does not explain the extent to which national courts should be allowed to construct national legislation when they are bound by EU law principles.