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French independent Bredin Prat has lost an unfair dismissal claim brought by a former employee, who alleged she had been the victim of harrassment at the firm.
The employee brought the claim in the Conseil de Prud’Hommes de Créteil, an industrial tribunal court in a Paris suburb, after losing her job at Bredin Prat in the summer of 2010. On 20 December the court found that Bredin Prat had unlawfully dismissed her and ordered that the firm should pay her compensation and unpaid wages amounting to €99,858 (£86,443).
However, the damages awarded were significantly less than the total claimed, which amounted to €292,000 including €144,400 for unfair dismissal.
According to the judgment, the employee was originally hired by Bredin Prat as a legal assistant in late 2005. In March 2007, she became responsible for communications and marketing at the firm.
She said that in 2008 the firm said it would hire an intern or part-time assistant to reinforce the external relations function, but instead a lawyer was seconded to the team in March 2009. She claimed that from this time on her working conditions deteriorated and she gradually lost the bulk of her responsibilities.
She claimed that during the next few months the situation got worse and as a result she went on sick leave in June 2009. A year later a doctor said she was unable to return to work and she was dismissed.
The claim included payment of wages for overtime, which the employee said had not been paid.
In its defence Bredin Prat said her employment had proceeded normally until March 2009, after which the situation deteriorated. The firm said she had failed to justify absences from work and delays in tasks she had been assigned.
Bredin Prat added that in June 2010 the employee had been offered a new job as legal assistant, which she had declined. The firm also said that there had been an error in 2006 over the payment of overtime, but this had been rectified in 2007.
The court found that there was a link between her ill-health and her working conditions and awarded her damages and wages owed in respect of overtime, although to a lesser extent than she had originally claimed.
Bredin Prat declined to comment.
French employment law is notoriously employee-friendly and claims against employers, including law firms, are understood to be common.