Beware of oral termination

Under French law, when an employer decides to terminate an employee, the employer must follow a specific procedure which involves an invitation to a preliminary meeting then a dismissal letter sent by registered post at least two working days[1] after the meeting.

If the employer does not respect this procedure, the judges consider the dismissal to be without any real and serious cause. In other words, if the employer verbally informs the employee that they are being dismissed, the dismissal is considered without any real and serious case.

But what happens if the employee is informed both orally (by phone) and by registered post?

This the question the French Supreme Court had to answer in a recent case in April 2024.

In this case, while sending the letter of dismissal by registered post on February 7, an employer decided to announce the decision to dismiss the employee by phone on the same day.

The employee then went before the Employment tribunal to challenge his dismissal and claim for damages, arguing that his dismissal had been oral since he was informed first by phone.

The French Supreme Court ruled that a phone call cannot substitute the dismissal letter sent – even on the same day – by registered letter. As the dismissal was notified verbally in this case, it was without real and serious cause.

To be safe, never call an employee who has not yet received the dismissal letter.

[1] Working days includes Saturday for this purpose

French Supreme, Social Division, April 3, 2024, 23-10.931

[1] Working days includes Saturday for this purpose