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Anti-Discrimination Laws in France

1. Brief Description of Anti-Discrimination Laws

The principle of non-discrimination is a core aspect of French Labour law. The principle of non-discrimination has constitutional value, by virtue of the Preamble to the Constitution of 1946 that prohibits discrimination with regard to criteria of sex, race, belief and trade union activity, and of the current Constitution dated 1958 that contains a provision according to which “the nation ensures equality before the law of all citizens, whatever their ethnic origin, race or religion” (article 2 of the French Constitution).

The French Labour Code contains several provisions on discrimination, especially a provision that lists all grounds of prohibited discrimination (article L.1132-1 and following).

2. Extent of Protection

According to the French Labour Code, it is forbidden to punish or dismiss employees, or exclude potential employees from the recruitment process (for a job, a training position or an internship), or endure direct or indirect discriminatory measures with respect to remuneration, incentive schemes, share distribution, training or redeployment programs, posting, qualification, classification, career development, mobility or contract renewal, on the basis of their: origin, gender, sexual orientation, morals, age, marital status, religious beliefs, nationality, ethnic or racial origin, political opinions, trade union activities, physical appearance, name, medical condition, disability.

Discrimination is a criminal offence punishable by (i) a maximum of three years’ imprisonment and a fine of EUR 45,000 for the employer’s legal representative (in most cases, the chief executive, depending on the type of company), (ii) a fine of up to EUR 225,000 for the employer (as a company).

3. Protections Against Harassment

In France, harassment is prohibited in national law and takes the form of both sexual and moral harassment.

Sexual and moral harassment are both punished by two years of imprisonment and a fine of EUR 30,000 (by three years of imprisonment and a fine of EUR 45,000 where sexual harassment is committed by a hierarchical superior).

In France, where harassment is perpetrated by an employee, both the employer and the employee are liable.

4. Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations

Under the current legislation, private companies and public offices with a work force of more than 20 employees must hire 6 % of disabled workers. Employers are provided with three options to meet this target: (i) Hiring disabled workers as employees, (ii) subcontracting workers from the sheltered sector, (iii) paying a contribution fee to AGEFIPH which is an organization dedicated to furthering professional inclusion of the disabled in the private sector.

5. Remedies

Since 2004, a special body has been created, that has an essential role in the fight against discrimination: The Defender of Rights. Any discrimination case, direct or indirect, prohibited by statute law or by an international convention to which France is a party, can be brought before the Defender of Rights. Its main task is to ensure the efficacy of the legal mechanisms prohibiting discrimination.

Legal actions may also be brought before the Labour Court directly by employees who allege discrimination.

For more information on these articles or any other issues involving labour and employment matters in France, please contact Joël Grangé, Partner at Flichy Grangé Avocats (www.flichygrange.com) at grange@flichy.com
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