The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Tuesday, held that a Catholic hospital in Germany might not have been justified in dismissing a manager for divorcing and remarrying outside the Church.
The case concerned the manager of an internal medicine department at a hospital overseen by the Archbishop of Cologne.
When the hospital discovered his new marital status, he lost his job.
The German constitution allows religious institutions some discretion in managing their internal affairs.
In the case, the hospital argued the ex-manager had violated the loyalty stipulated in his contract by contravening canon law.
He took his case to Germany’s Federal Labour Court on grounds that he did not receive equal treatment under the law.
Had he had any other faith, he argued, he would not have lost his job.
The Labour Court then directed the case to the ECJ to decide whether his dismissal contravened the EU’s equal treatment directive, which bars discrimination on religious grounds.
The ECJ ruled that adherence to religious faith was not a genuine requirement to fulfil these particular job duties.
“Adherence to the notion of marriage … does not appear to be necessary for the promotion of [the hospital’s] ethos due to the importance of the occupational activities” carried out by the manager, the ECJ said in press release.
Germany’s Federal Labour Court now has the final say in the matter, and will decide whether the issue of marital status undermined the hospital’s ethos.