In the very recent decision, dated 27 March 2012, a member of the aircraft crew working for an airline company was dismissed for serious misconduct because he took drugs while he was on stopover between two flights. Although his behaviour was calm and normal, he was under the influence of drugs while performing his duties throughout the second flight.

The employee claimed that his employer could not dismiss him on the basis of facts occurring outside working hours and premises.

The Cour de cassation ruled against the employee and stated that as soon as the facts constituted a breach by the employee of his contractual obligations, he could not be afforded protection of his privacy. In the present case, the breach of the employment contract was to be found in the obligation for an aircraft crew member to ensure the safety of passengers. The fact of being under the influence of drugs while being in contact with passengers and potentially endangering them was considered as a breach of contract.

The right to privacy is an important principle under French employment law, and case law usually considers that employees cannot be dismissed on the basis of facts occurring outside working time and premises. Here, the Supreme Court made an exception to this rule. However, this exception shall be assessed in relation to the duties of the employee. The need to ensure the privacy of employees should be balanced with the security of the individuals they are obligated to protect.

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