Analysis
14 July 2020

French Court approves dismissal of an employee for breach of company anticorruption policy

Bastille Day Newsletter 2020 - Enforcement & Court Decisions

 

A company operating as spare-part supplier for the aircraft industry, dismissed its sales assistant after an internal investigation revealed that she had accepted and ordered two iPads from one of the company suppliers, violating the company’s internal anticorruption policy.

While the lower court ruled against the dismissal, Anger’s Court of Appeal followed the employer’s reasoning, considering that “by personally accepting gifts of a significant amount from a supplier, twice and with an absolute discretion”, the employee had committed gross misconduct that justified her dismissal [1].

With this decision, the Court took a stance in favor of companies that adopt a strict interpretation of anticorruption policy and sent a strong message to employees who put their employer at risk. The Court operates a sort of balance of interests by supporting companies’ internal anticorruption policies, although the company was not subject to anticorruption law standards.

 

I. A willful breach of internal anticorruption rules constitutes gross misconduct justifying dismissal

Pursuant to French labor law, employees cannot be dismissed without reason [2] and a minima, must be found guilty of substantiated misconduct. In the present case, the Court recalled that “gross misconduct results from a fact or set of facts committed by the employee involving a violation of the obligations deriving from [the employee’s] employment contract and of such importance as to make it impossible for [the employee] to remain in the company”.

Here, the identified misconduct is the result of cumulated circumstances. The employee was guilty of having breaching company internal anticorruption and ethical policy, by personally ordering two Ipads without consulting management and asking for them to be delivered at her personal residence.

Moreover, the Court highlighted that she willingly denied and withheld the order, all the while being aware of the company’s internal policy, as she had participated in several company trainings on ethics and anticorruption and had been provided with documents that expressly specified anticorruption provisions regarding gifts. According to these rules, accepting gifts was prohibited, except for gifts of a “reasonable value”, capped at twenty euros – while the iPads amounted to 798 euros. The internal investigation carried out by the company revealed, that the employee had issued a similar order with the same supplier two years earlier, for an electronic pad.

Although no act of corruption was identified – as not the role of the labor judge – this decision is an indication of the willingness to support company efforts to prevent litigious behavior on the part of their employees.

 

II. A decision in line with French anticorruption provisions

Pursuant to Article 17 of the Sapin II law, only companies with over five hundred employees are required to implement an anti-corruption policy [3], including a code of conduct, an internal reporting procedure, an internal control procedure, risk mapping and trainings.

Here, while the company is under the threshold imposed by law [4], it voluntary chose to implement an internal anticorruption and ethics policy. This shows that anticorruption is increasingly considered as important by small economic actors, namely on account of the serious consequences uncovered corruptive schemes may have (e.g. financial, reputational, and potential prosecution).

Although the risks of corruption are the mere backdrop of this case, the gross misconduct is characterized by the risks for the company. By dismissing its employee, the company chose to avoid such risks.

Related content

Publication
The Practitioner’s Guide to Global Investigations - 7th Edition
13 January 2023
Navacelle co-authors GIR of the Practitioner’s Guide to Global Investigations – 7th edition
NAVACELLE co-authors the French chapter of the seventh edition of Global Investigations Review’s Practitioner’s Guide to Global Investigations.
Analysis
Lobbying : Declaration obligations of interest representatives in France
14 July 2022
Lobbying: Declaration obligations of interest representatives in France
Highlight on the disclosure obligations imposed on interest representatives in France, as provided for by Law 2013-907 of October 11,...
Publication
The Guide to Sanctions -GIR (2022)
10 July 2022
The Guide to Sanctions (2022) – GIR
Navacelle co-author of the third edition of the Global Investigation Review's Guide to Sanctions.
Press review
Press review - Week of 23 january 2023
27 January 2023
Press review – Week of 23 January 2023
In this week’s press review, you will find two cases which were dismissed, one concerning the defective management of the...
News
Roxane Castro
26 January 2023
Navacelle strengthens its regulatory litigation practice with the arrival of Roxane Castro
With an international culture and a multidisciplinary team led by Stéphane de Navacelle and Julie Zorrilla, Navacelle continues to develop...
Publication
25 January 2023
Overview of the AFA’s survey regarding French companies’ anti-corruption systems
On 30 September 2022, the French Anti-Corruption Agency published the results of its second survey of French companies’ anti-corruption systems....
Analysis
24 January 2023
Sanctioning obstructions to AMF investigations: Update from the Constitutional Court in its decision of 28 January 2022
On 28 January 2022, the Constitutional Court ruled that Article L. 621-15, II, f of the Monetary and Financial Code...
Press review
Week of 16 January 2023
20 January 2023
Press review – Week of 16 January 2023
This week press review includes the latest news on criminal law, business criminal law and criminal procedure. Thus, this review...
Press review
Press review - Week of 9 january 2023
13 January 2023
Press review – Week of 9 January 2023
This week in the press review, a dismissal of the Chlordecone case in the French West Indies and a $17.2...
Event
The fundamental rights of the company - AIJA
12 January 2023
[Roundtable] The fundamental rights of the company
Stéphane de Navacelle participated in the French-speaking conference on fundamental rights in business organised by AIJA on Friday 13 January 2023.
Press review
Week of 2 January 2023
6 January 2023
Press review – Week of 2 January 2023
This week in the press review, two Members of the European Parliament have been subjected to immunity waiver proceedings in...
Press review
Press review - Week of 26 december 2022
30 December 2022
Press review – Week of 26 December 2022
In this week's news, there are several important events in criminal law. First, the criminal Charles Sobhraj, otherwise known as...
Press review
Press review - Week of 19 december 2022
23 December 2022
Press review – Week of 19 December 2022
This week's press review presents the outcome of an investigation by the Paris Bar Council against several lawyers for ethical...
Press review
Press review - Week of 12 december 2022
16 December 2022
Press review – Week of 12 December 2022
In this press review, from a judicial point of view, there are several important events: The Court de Cassation ruled...