French Supreme Court Upholds Dismissal Caused by Office Romance

France is proud to call itself the land of human rights, and Paris the city of love. This pride is not unfounded given how strictly an employer’s actions are regulated when it comes to office romance.  As inappropriate as office romances may seem, the employer has no say in two employees’ falling in love. However, a new decision by the French Supreme Court has shaken a bit all deeply held conceptions of private life (Cass. Soc., 29 May 2024, no. 22-16.218).

A first glance at the ruling would suggest that the French Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Court of Appeals to reject the employee’s claim of dismissal without cause, after his love affair angered his employer.

Upon closer examination of the facts of the case, however, a more nuanced picture emerges. In this case, the dismissed employee was a wire production and site manager. His job included human resources responsibilities, as designated by the chairman of the executive board. As the de facto human resources manager, he was chairing all work councils and was representing the employer during collective bargaining. It was discovered that this employee had been involved, for several years, in an affair with a union representative who had participated in several strikes and negotiated with the HR manager during layoffs.

One might conclude that such a relationship is clearly unacceptable due to the conflict of interests. However, the Court of Appeals did not address the relationship itself. In rejecting the employee’s claim, the Court of Appeals raised the violation of his duty of loyalty due to the concealment of the relationship. This reasoning, which hinges on the employee’s concealment of a relationship that could affect the proper exercise of his duties as an employer’s representative, was approved by the French Supreme Court.

This ruling should not be used as a green light to dismiss employees for office romances. To protect the interests of companies, decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis with the assistance of employment counsel.


Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.