In principle, the employees’ private life is protected, both inside and outside the company.
As a consequence, an act committed by an employee in his private life does not constitute a misconduct and cannot justify disciplinary dismissal.
However, if this fact causes an objective disturbance within the company, it may constitute a real and serious cause for dismissal.
The French Supreme Court confirmed this principle in a decision dated April 4, 2023 (n°22-10.476).
In this case, an employee had been sentenced to prison for more than 3 years for acts of sexual assault on minors, committed while he was coaching the local football club.
When the employee returned to work after serving his sentence, the nature of the offences for which he had been found guilty had caused a lasting stir in the town where he worked, and a large number of employees had expressed their refusal to work with him. Some of them even went on strike to voice their disagreement.
The French Supreme Court considered that the employer could rely on these factors to establish an objective disturbance in the smooth running of the company, justifying the dismissal of this employee. Please note that under French law, the grievances against the employee to justify his dismissal will not be those that led to his criminal conviction, but only the consequences of his actions on the working relations with his colleagues. The dismissal will not be disciplinary.