CJEU: airline crew members can sue their employer at their “home base”

Ryanair and Crew link are companies established in Ireland. Ryanair is active in the international passenger air transport sector. Crewlink is specialised in the recruitment and training of cabin crew for airlines. Between 2009 and 2011, employees of Portuguese, Spanish and Belgian nationality were hired by Ryanair or by Crewlink, then assigned to Ryanair, as cabin crew (air hostesses and stewards ).All the employment contracts were drafted in English, subject to Irish law and included a jurisdiction clause providing that the Irish courts had jurisdiction. In those contracts, it was stipulated that the work of the employees concerned, as ca bin crew, was regarded as being carried out in Ireland given that their duties were performed on board aircraft registered in that Member State. Those contracts nevertheless designated Charleroi airport (Belgium) as the employee s’ ‘home base’. Those employees started and ended their working day at that airport, and they were contractually obliged to reside within an hour of their ‘home base’.Taking the view that Crewlink and Ryanair had to comply with and apply the provisions of Belgian law and that the Belgian courts had jurisdiction to adjudicate on their claims, six employees brought proceedings before the Belgian courts in 2011.The cour du travail de Mons (Mons Higher Labour Court, Belgium) referred the issue to the European Court of Justice for preliminary ruling.In its judgment of Sep. 14, 2017, the Court pointed out first of all that , as regards disputes related to employment contracts, the European rules concerning jurisdiction were aimed at protecting the weaker party. Those rules enable inter alia an employee to sue his employer before the courts which he regards as closest to his interests, by giving him the option of bringing proceeding s before the courts of the Member State in which the employer is domiciled or the courts of the place in which the employee habitually carries out his work.As regards the determination of the concept of ‘place where the employee habitually carries out his work’, the Court refers to its settled case – law according to which that concept covers the place where, or from which, the employee in fact performs the essential part of his duties vis – à – vis his employer. To determine specifically that place, the national court must refer to a set of indicia. However, the concept of ‘home base’ amounts to a significant indicator to determine, in circumstances such as those at issue, the place from which the employee habitually carries out his work.Source: CJEU press release No 97/17 of Sep. 14, 2017Judgment in joined cases C – 168/16 and C – 169/16 – Nogueira and Others available here>>.

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