News - France

France - May 2013

Equal treatment in the provision of benefits

On March 13, 2013, the French Supreme Court issued a decision concerning the equal treatment principle and company pension schemes, limiting this principle to employees who are from the same professional group.

A company decided to solely implement a company health insurance scheme for its employees with a different funding policy for different categories of employee. In respect of managers and supervisors the company took responsibility for all contributions, but paid only 60 % of the total contributions due in respect of other categories of employee. 124 employees were excluded from the all included contribution plan by the company, and therefore commenced an action for breach of equal treatment and for reimbursement of contributions they had to pay.

The labour court of Melun found in favour of the employees and ordered the employer to pay to the employees who were excluded from the all included contribution plan, a payment in respect of contributions back pay. This was because the sole difference of professional category could not justify differences in treatment from the employer. The employer had argued that the reason for the difference in treatment between managers and non-managers was to attract and retain managers but provided no additional evidence explaining that policy and the reasons why he wanted to reach such goal.

The appeal from the company against the decision of the Labour Court was considered on the basis of the equal treatment principle.

In the ruling, the French Supreme Court states "due to the specific characteristics of pension schemes, which depends on specificities for each professional group, and therefore require in their implementation an external body outside of the company, and taking into account the solidarity goal, the equal treatment is only applicable between employees who are from the same professional group."

It should be noted such precedent was also followed in two other judgments dated 13th march 2013 with similar facts (Cass. Soc., 13 march 2013 nR. 10-28022 and Cass. Soc., nE. 11-23761). The Court of Cassation's previous position about the equal treatment principle concerning the financing of pension schemes is now clearly affirmed and confirmed.

For further information or to discuss any of the issues raised, please contact Nicolas Lger on + 33 1 42 56 39 17 at Lexcom, Paris - www.lexcom-lawfirm.com.

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