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EU court backs German doctor fired by Catholic hospital

September 11, 2018

BERLIN (AP) — The European Union’s top court said Tuesday that a German Catholic hospital may have unlawfully discriminated against a senior doctor who was dismissed because he divorced and then remarried in a civil ceremony.

The European Court of Justice was consulted by Germany’s Federal Labor Court, which will deliver a final verdict in the case. The plaintiff, identified as JQ, worked as head of internal medicine at a hospital managed by a company supervised by the archbishop of Cologne.

JQ argued that his dismissal violated the principle of equal treatment because, under church labor regulations, a department head of Protestant or no faith who divorced and remarried wouldn’t have been dismissed.

The EU court found that adhering to the Catholic notion of marriage “does not appear to be a genuine requirement” of the job he did, though the German court must decide.

It noted that “similar posts were entrusted to employees who were not of the Catholic faith and, consequently, not subject to the same requirement to act in good faith and with loyalty to (the company’s) ethos.”

The German Bishops Conference said the doctor’s dismissal from a hospital in Duesseldorf dates back to 2009 and that the legal battle centers on a 1993 church labor regulation that foresaw dismissal in such cases. It said that that regulation was overhauled in 2015.

The bishops conference criticized the EU court ruling in a statement, arguing that it fails to take sufficient account of the churches’ ability under German constitutional law to run their own affairs.

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