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Discipline and/or sanctions

In the event that the employer wishes to envisage sanctions or a disciplinary measures against a particular employee, such steps must be undertaken in careful compliance with the extremely formal provisions of the French Code du travail (codified statute relating to French employment relationships) together with, if applicable, the relevant Convention collective (collective bargaining agreement) as well as possibly the Rglement intrieur (being the employers internal rules or employee handbook).

If there were an apparent or ostensible conflict between the provisions of the above three sources, which are, in theory at least, hierarchical with the statute law prevailing, the interpretation which is most favourable to the employee will nevertheless generally be that taken into account by the French Courts.

The different forms of sanction which exist under French employment law include e.g. a warning letter, a written reprimand, a suspension on disciplinary grounds, downgrading of position, dismissal for cause etc

Save for very minor sanctions, it is a requirement that the employer should summon the employee, usually by LRAR (recorded delivery letter with proof of delivery requested sent the employees home address) to a preliminary but formal meeting at the place of work prior to any sanction being envisaged with a view to hearing the employees point of view;

It is strongly advisable for the letter summoning the employee to this preliminary meeting to be formulated in such a way as to include all the requisite mandatory wording (set down by the Code du travail) and to make clear that the employee may be accompanied by a third party (certain conditions apply) at the meeting if he or she so wished.

The letter must also set down clearly inter alia the date and place of the meeting as well as the name and position of the person who will conduct the interview.

However, it is important to bear in mind any disciplinary measure must by law have been commenced within two months of the date of the alleged performance or misconduct issue either coming about or being brought to the attention of the employer for the first time; and moreover if it were decided to put a sanction in place this needs to be done within one month of the formal interview to which the employee has been summoned.

If the requisite steps are not undertaken within the said timeframe, no sanction may be envisaged as the issue is held to be time-barred and alleged facts may not be referred to or relied upon in the future.

Finally, it is respectfully suggested that great circumspection should be always shown in the event that disciplinary measures were envisaged and that the appropriate checks be taken as grounds, procedure and chronology prior to taking any formal step vis--vis the employee.