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
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
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