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FLASH FROM | Incapacity for work partly caused by an accident or occupational disease: a reminder of the rules applied by the Cour de cassation (French Supreme Court)

cass. society of May 7, 2024, no. 22-10.905, B

In its judgment of May 7, the Court of Cassation recalled that incapacity for work proceedings should be applied if the incapacity for work, regardless of when it was confirmed or invoked, results at least in part from an accident or illness and the employer was aware of including at the time of dismissal.

In the present case, an employee employed as a truck driver suffered an accident at work on April 18, 2012. He was then absent from work for non-professional reasons and never sought medical help in connection with the accident at work. Because the employee did not return to work, on March 30, 2015, the occupational medicine doctor declared him incapable of work. The decision on incapacity for work indicates that the incapacity for work was caused by an illness unrelated to work or an accident. He was fired for a non-work related disability.

On appeal, it was held that the employer should have applied the dismissal procedure for incapacity because the employee’s incapacity was, at least in part, of an occupational nature, of which the employer was aware at the time of dismissal. As a result, the employer was ordered to pay the employee various amounts in compensation for the notice period and the related paid leave, additional severance pay, and compensation for failing to provide the reasons for the impossibility of transfer to work before the dismissal procedure.

The employer then brought an action before the French Supreme Court on the following grounds

– Referring to the professional nature of this incapacity for work, he pointed out that after an accident at work, the employee took sick leave unrelated to work and did not apply for insurance under the provisions on accidents at work and occupational diseases. Consequently, in his opinion, the Court of Appeal deprived itself of the legal basis for its judgment by finding that the incapacity for work was at least partly occupational, without demonstrating that it was known at the time of dismissal;

– Regarding the effects of incapacity for work: the employer alleged that the judgment ordered him to pay the employee the amount for paid leave in the form of compensation equivalent to notice. He emphasized that the compensation provided for in Art. L. 1226-14 of the Labor Code is not of the same nature as compensation in lieu of notice and therefore does not give rise to the right to paid leave;

– Regarding the obligation to inform in writing an employee who is unable to work as a result of an accident at work about the reasons why he cannot be retrained: the employer alleged that the Court of Appeal had found him unfavorable for failing to provide the reasons why retraining was not possible before the procedure layoffs. According to the employer, the lack of written notification of the reasons preventing the transfer of an employee who suffered an accident at work to another position does not expose the employer to the sanctions provided for in Art. L. 1226-15 of the French Labor Code, however, imposes an obligation on the employer to pay compensation for the damage suffered.

The Court of Cassation partially accepted the complaint:

– He recalled that the provisions on protection against accidents at work and occupational diseases apply when the employee’s incapacity, regardless of when it is confirmed or invoked, results at least in part from an accident at work or an occupational disease, and the employer was aware of including at the time of dismissal. In this case, since the first break from work was of a professional nature, the employer was aware of the professional nature of the incapacity for work, regardless of the fact that the employee had not reported any break from work of a professional nature before the onset of the incapacity;

– The Tribunal further stated that compensation in the amount of remuneration paid in lieu of notice is not remuneration for notice and does not entitle the employee to paid leave, and therefore overturned the appellate judgment on this issue;

– Finally, as regards the employer’s failure to fulfill the obligation to inform the employee in writing of the reasons for refusing the transfer, this failure does not expose the employer to the sanctions provided for in Article L. 1226-15 of the Labor Code, but imposes an obligation to pay compensation for the damage suffered.