Under Article L.1321-6 of the French labour code, any document relating to employee obligations, or the provision of what is necessary to the execution of the employment contract, must be in French.
On 29 June 2011, the Cour de Cassation, the French Supreme Court, applied this rule to bonus targets that were communicated in English to a French employee of an international company in France.
The employee’s position (executive director) and the fact that he understood his targets in English perfectly did not matter to the Supreme Court. As the targets were communicated in English only, the Court found that the targets were not enforceable against the French employee.
Although the French Supreme Court did not rule on this issue, the likely consequence of unenforceable targets is that the employee would be entitled to 100 per cent of his or her bonus.
Likewise, based on the Supreme Court’s decision, the bonus rules communicated in English to employees in France would also be unenforceable.
What Does This Mean For Companies?
As a result of this landmark Supreme Court decision, international companies in France must now communicate to employees any information on bonus targets and bonus rules in both English and French.