SPAIN - The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today has rejected Félix Palacios de la Villa's age discrimination claim against his employer, clothing company Cortefiel Servicios SA.

Last year, Palacios de la Villa, 65, took his employer to court claiming that the default retirement age of 65 constituted age discrimination.

Rachel Dineley, employment partner and head of the national diversity and discrimination unit at law firm Beachcroft LLP in the UK, said it would have been surprising if the ECJ had taken a different stance.

"In the preamble to the Directive it is stated clearly that it ‘shall be without prejudice to national provisions laying down retirement ages,' although this was not the focus of the judgement," she commented.

Dineley added: "The  ECJ is clearly of the view that the imposition of a  retirement age is objectively justifiable,  in particular where it is linked to the provision of a pension."

It was feared that a positive ruling in the Spanish legal challenge could affect occupational pension schemes and would undermine national provisions.

If the ECJ had ruled in favour of Palacios de la Villa, allowing him to continue working rather than being forced to take his occupational pension and retire, it could have had widespread consequences for occupational pension funds across the EU, lawyers said at the time.

Beachcroft LLP also commented the verdict has significantly diminished the chance of success of the Heyday case, which is still awaiting trial. 

Heyday, a membership organisation launched by Age Concern last year, is challenging the national default retirement age of 65 set by the UK Government in the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

"While Heyday may persist in their challenge regardless of this development, employers can take comfort from what is clearly a sound and sensible view.

Conversely, employees who had contemplated challenging their employer's decision to require them to retire on reaching age 65 may reluctantly accept the decision, and recognise that any challenge through the Employment Tribunal is very probably futile," said Dineley.