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Disciplinary sanctions and union delegates: judgment of the Court of Cassation

The Court of Cassation criticized the decision of an appeal court which upheld a warning addressed to a union delegate for having fomented a conflict with another employee. This decision raises important considerations regarding the disciplinary power of employers with regard to  protected employees  .

Since a ruling of June 30, 2010, the Court of Cassation has limited the disciplinary power   of employers to cases where employees fail to fulfill their professional obligations ( Cass. soc., June 30, 2010 ). The High Court provides a new example of this principle by overturning the decision of an appeal court having validated the warning given to a union representative (called DS) for having provoked a conflict with another employee. The Court of Cassation determined that the employee had only belatedly claimed that his actions were carried out in his capacity as a union delegate.

Protected employees: limits of the employer’s disciplinary power

According to the Court of Cassation, if the employee’s intervention was part of his representation mandate, he could not be subject to sanctions. However, it is important to note that the Court leaves open the possibility of a different outcome if the judges were to establish abuse in the behavior of the staff representative, which was not the case in this case.

This decision highlights the limits placed on employers when disciplining protected employees, such as union representatives. The Court of Cassation emphasizes that disciplinary measures can only be taken in the event of a clear violation of professional obligations by the employee. The Court’s decision protects the rights and activities of union representatives, recognizing their role in defending the interests of employees and promoting collective bargaining.

It is essential that employers are aware of the specific legal framework that applies to protected employees and ensure that any disciplinary action is based on legitimate grounds and not in conflict with their representative mandates. This decision recalls that disciplinary power must be exercised in a fair and proportionate manner, while respecting the rights and responsibilities of employees protected within the framework of employment relations. 

DAMY Law Firm