AuthorLatraverse, Sophie
4.1 Genuine and determining occupational requirements (Article 4)
In France, national legislation provides for an exception for genuine and determining
occupational requirements.
Article 2, paragraph 3, and Article 6, paragraph 3, of Law No. 2008-496 created the general
possibility of raising an exception based on genuine and determining occupational
requirements which has been relied upon to attempt to justify restrictions on wearing the
Islamic headscarf and has generated a long stream of jurisprudence.
The possibility of raising a general exception introduced in 2008 appears to be a regression
compared to the absence of such an exception prior to the adoption of this law. In addition,
it is framed in terms that are too broad, leaving open the possibility of justifying
occupational requirements in each individual case.
Article 6, paragraph 3 of the Law provides:
‘The prohibition of discrimination does not forbid difference in treatment if it
constitutes a genuine and determining occupational requirement, as long as the
objective pursued is legitimate and the requirement proportionate.’ 246
Further to constant debates in France on the ability of employers to adopt restrictions on
wearing or displaying religious symbols, during discussion of Law No. 2016-1088 of 8
August 2016 on employment, the modernisation of social dialogue and the protection of
professional careers, Parliament unanimously adopted a provision (Article 2) which amends
the Labour Code to create, at Article L 1321-2-1, the ability for employers to set out in
their in-house regulations the principle of neutrality as a rule and to stipulate restrictions
on expressions of belief by employees. These restrictions have been justified by the
exercise of other fundamental rights and liberties or by the necessities of the good
functioning of the service, as long as they are proportionate to the objective pursued.247
In-house regulations that have to be followed by the employees are regulated by Article
1321-1 of the Labour Code. Article 1321-1 provides that such regulations are unilaterally
determined by the employer. If union representatives consider that their content violates
the fundamental rights of employees their only recourse is to challenge them before the
courts, based on the protection offered by Article L1121-1 LC.
Meanwhile, the issue of whether restrictions on wearing or displaying religious symbols in
the workplace can constitute genuine and determining occupational requirements of the
employment contract has given rise to a referral to the Court of Justice by the Court of
Cassation in the Bougnaoui case.248
246 Law 27 May 2008, Article 6 Para. 3: ‘L'article L. 1133-1 est ainsi rétabli: ‘Art. L. 1133-1.-L'article L. 1132-1
ne fait pas obstacle aux différences de traitement, lorsqu'elles répondent à une exigence professionnelle
essentielle et déterminante et pour autant que l'objectif soit légitime et l'exigence proportionnée.’
247 Law No. 2016-1088 of 8 August 2016 on employment, the modernisation of social dialogue and the
protection of professional careers (Loi n° 2016-1088 du 8 août 2016 relative au travail, à la modernisation
du dialogue social et à la sécurisation des parcours professionnels), Article 2: ‘Le règlement intérieur peut
contenir des dispositions inscrivant le principe de neutralité et restreignant la manifestation de convictions
religieuse des salariés, si ces restrictions sont justifiées par l'exercice d'autres libertés et droits
fondamentaux ou par les nécessités du bon fonctionnement de l'entreprise et si elles sont proportionnées au
but recherché., available at: https://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/eli/loi/2016/8/8/2016-1088/jo/texte.
248 CJEU, judgment of 14 March 2017, Asma Bougnaoui, ADDH v. Micropole SA., C-188/15, EU:C:2017:204,
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