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The infringment of the highway code cannot justify the employee’s disciplinary dismissal

In a decision dated October 4, 2023, the Labour Division of the French Supreme Court ruled on the validity of an employee’s dismissal for breaches of the French highway code committed during the employee’s journey to work, while using the company car.

In this case, an employee working as a mechanic was dismissed for misconduct for committing four violations of the French highway code (mainly for speeding).

The Court of Appeal ruled that the dismissal was unfair, since it considered that these facts fell within the scope of his personal life. The employer appealed to the French Supreme Court, arguing that the violations of the French highway code committed on the way to and from work, using a company vehicle, were necessarily related to his professional life.

After reiterating its position that a reason based on an employee’s personal life cannot, in principle, justify their disciplinary dismissal, unless it constitutes a breach of an obligation arising from the employment contract, the French Supreme Court dismissed the employer’s appeal.

The French Supreme Court firstly held that the violations committed by the employee happened during his journey to work, thus when he was not at his employer’s disposal, and secondly found that the company vehicle was not damaged.

Therefore, the French Supreme Court found that the employee’s behaviour could not be seen as a breach of his contractual obligations and was thus unrelated to his professional life. His dismissal was therefore unfair.