The decision in question, dated 26 September 2012, concerned an employee who had been dismissed consequent to having being sentenced to prison for having raped the daughter of one of his colleagues. The employee challenged his dismissal on the grounds that he was dismissed for private behaviour (i.e., outside of the scope of his employment).
French case law generally prevents dismissals based on facts occurring in the employees’ private life. Such behaviour may not constitute grounds for dismissal based on alleged misconduct unless they have a link to the professional activities of the employee, or where they constitute an infringement by the employees of the obligations arising under his employment contract. However, behaviours occurring outside of work premises may constitute a fair reason for dismissal if they result in a clear disruption within the company.
More particularly, imposition of criminal sentences and imprisonment do not constitute a fair reason for dismissal under French law (but only grounds for suspending the contract during the term of imprisonment), unless they are related to the duties of the employee, or if they have an impact on the company.
The employer had dismissed the employee 2 months after the he was convicted of rape committed on a colleague’s daughter (aged 15 at the time of the facts) and sentenced to 8 years in prison. The employer argued that the personnel of the company was shocked by the crime and that the situation created a difficult work atmosphere, which had a negative impact on the running of the company.
The Supreme Court confirmed the dismissal, in particular on the basis of the following arguments: (i) the employer had to intervene with the employees several times to prevent rumour mongering, (ii) the employees meeting the victim’s mother (herself being employed by the company) had expressed a strong emotion, and (iii) a psychological unit had to be set up within the company.
This decision is in line with French case law and provides another example where employees can be dismissed on the basis of facts pertaining to their private lives.