Case summary

Deciding Body
Court of Cassation
Cour de Cassation
France
National case details
Date of decision: 22.01.20
Registration ID: 17-31.158
Instance: Cassation (review)
Case status: Final
Area of law
Non-discrimination


Identification of the case

National law sources
  • Articles L. 1132-1, L 1132-4 of the French Labour Code
  • Article 1 of French Decree No. 2010-105 of 28 January 2010 on the age limit for employees of the French National Railway Company
EU law sources
  • Article 6(1) of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation

Summary of the case

Facts of the case

In the present case, an SNCF employee subjected to the statutory rules specific to SNCF (permanent executive employee) was initially retired automatically at the age of 55 on the grounds that he met the double condition of age and length of service provided for in Article 7 of the SNCF pension regulations. Nearly 5 years later (in 2010), the employee brought an action before the Prud’hommes Council to have his automatic retirement annulled on the grounds that it constituted discrimination on the basis of his age. He also applied for reinstatement.

Type of enforcement
  • Civil judicial enforcement
Measures, actions, remedies claimed/applied

Annulment of retirement and application for reinstatement.

Reasoning (legal principles applied)

The Court of Appeal considered that the measure of automatic retirement was discriminatory. However, the Court refused to declare the retirement null and void in order to place itself on a purely compensatory basis and awarded 3 000€ to the employee. The judges considered that Article L 122-45 of the Labour Code (which became articles L. 1132-1 and L. 1132-4) relating to the principle of non-discrimination and providing for the nullity of discriminatory decisions were not applicable to public industrial and commercial establishments until the entry into force of Order No. 2007-329 of 12 March 2007. They also considered that European law was silent on the sanction to be applied in the event of discrimination.

The Court of Cassation partially censured the reasoning of the judges of appeal. It noted that the Court of Appeal had to apply Article L. 122-45 of the French Labour Code in accordance with Article 6(1) of Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000, which enshrines a general principle of European Union law and declared the nullity of the retirement. Indeed, Article 3 of Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, relating to the scope of application, extended its scope to all persons, for both the public and private sectors, including public bodies.

Indeed, it results from Article L. 122-45 of the French Labour Code and Article 1 of Decree no. 2010-105 of 28 January 2010, then applicable, interpreted in accordance with Article 6 §1 of Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, that no employee may be dismissed on the grounds of age and that any provision or act contrary to it with regard to an employee is null and void.

With regard to compensation, the Court sets different compensation rules for the periods before and after the date on which the employee reached the age limit for SNCF employees (65 years old) as set out in Article 1 of Decree No. 2010-105 of 28 January 2010. Therefore, the Court has distinguished 3 different periods:

1) From the date of retirement to the date of the application for reinstatement, the employee is deprived of any compensation since he abusively submitted his application for reinstatement late.

2) From the date of application for reinstatement to the date on which he reached the age limit for performing his duties, the employee was entitled to compensation corresponding to the remuneration he would have received from the date of the application for reinstatement to the date on which he reached the age limit.

3) From the date of reaching the age limit to the date of the decision finding discrimination, since no reinstatement was possible during this period, no compensation for loss of earnings was founded.

Therefore, an employee whose employment contract has been ended in a discriminatory manner on the grounds of age and who applies for reinstatement is entitled, once he has reached the age limit referred to in Article 1 of Decree No. 2010-105, to an indemnity equal to the remuneration he would have received, after deduction of replacement income, from the date of his dismissal until that age. However, an employee who improperly submits his application for reinstatement too late is only entitled, by virtue of this nullity, to the remuneration he would have received from the date of the application for reinstatement to the date on which he reached the said age.

The Court overturned the appeal judgment because the reparation had to be full. After finding that the employee had been subject to an automatic retirement measure, which was discriminatory in nature, the Court of appeal had to ensure full compensation for the resulting damage. By reducing the amount of compensation with regard to the rights he had been able to benefit from under the Sncf's staff regulations on employment, retirement and unemployment, the Court of Appeal infringed Article 6 § 1 of Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000, establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation, L. 1132-1, L. 1133-1, L. 1237-5 and L. 3111-1 of the French Labour Code.

Additional notes on the decision

External links

Case author

Thibaut Fleury-Graff and Inès Giauffret , University Versailles Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines

Published by Chiara Patera on 18 September 2020