Molière's pen facing Shakespeare's verb. This high-flying duel is not literary but legal. That of a French employee, working in English, attacking his former English-speaking company. The Court of Appeal having rejected his application, he appealed to the Court of Cassation, putting forward several pleas in law. And one of them, on the language used in contracts, has rightly caught the attention of the High Court, whose decision was rendered Wednesday, June 7.
Although he was fluently bilingual and worked exclusively in English, this sales executive challenged the terms of his objectives and remuneration, set out in a contract drafted in English. The language of practice of the trade being English and the company being the French branch of an American multinational, it seemed quite normal that the contract should be written in the language of Shakespeare. However, the Court of Cassation considered the medical industry company at fault, recalling that "any document containing obligations for the employee or provisions whose knowledge is necessary for the performance of his work must be written in French".
It is therefore useless to prove that the employee had a perfect command of English and therefore signed knowingly. Even if the business executive demanded more than it was given. He could disregard the details of the target-setting document, which allowed for the calculation of his commissions, since it was written in English. He was therefore not supposed to understand it, the judges concluded.
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Thus, if a company has decided to work in a foreign language - to which it is perfectly entitled, it is nevertheless obliged to write certain documents in French. This decision of the Court of Cassation is based on Article L. 1321-6 of the Labour Code. To which it adds that the obligation to use French also applies to documents setting out the objectives on which variable remuneration depends. However, this obligation to use French in certain documents does not apply to documents received from abroad or destined for foreign documents. The Court of Appeal had dismissed the plaintiff's appeal, considering that the language of the contract was indeed the one used in the company. A decision that could have been legitimate if it had found that the contract had been received from abroad. Failing this, the High Court quashed the judgment. Condemning the offending company to pay 3000 to its former employee.