The decision at stake, dated 10 May 2012, concerned a chartered accountant dismissed for wilful misconduct ("faute lourde"). The employee alleged, among other things, that the employer was not entitled to effect withholdings on payments of his salary prior to the termination of his employment contract (amounting to 4,900 €) for reimbursement to the employer of the cost of training sessions which the employee attended a few months prior the termination.
Under French employment law, employment contracts can provide, subject to certain conditions, that employees will be required to reimburse the employer for the cost of training sessions, if the contract is terminated within a certain period of time following such training ("clause de dédit-formation").
Generally, such clause is intended to indemnify the employer in the event of resignation of the employee following costly training paid for by the company. However, in this case, it was the employer who decided to terminate the employment contract, albeit based on the employee's gross misconduct.
The French Supreme Court ruled that the contractual provision was not enforceable, even though the dismissal was based on serious misbehaviour by the employee.
Therefore, such clauses will only be fully applicable where an employee resigns from his position, and will not be enforceable in case of dismissal, even if such decision of the employer is fully justified. Employers using this clause to effect withholdings from a dismissed employee's salary may be required to reimburse the unjustified withholding, and in some cases may be required to pay additional damages.
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