A Clifford Chance junior assistant in Paris is taking on his own firm to defend his right to act as a trade union representative.
Clifford Chance is challenging Avi Bitton’s appointment as a délégué syndicale, or trade union deputy, in a Parisian tribunal d’instance, or magistrates’ court. The firm says his appointment by the Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens (French Federation of Christian Workers (CFTC)) was fraudulent and made solely to protect him from dismissal.
Bitton is the firm’s only lawyer to act in this role. In France, such employees are protected from unfair dismissal by law as they put themselves at risk defending the rights of other workers.
Bitton’s CFTC role follows work done with the Union des Jeunes Avocats (Young Lawyers’ Union) since starting law school. His lawyers, Pierre and Paul Bouaziz from employment firm Bouaziz Benamara, will argue that this prior work means Bitton was a genuine union activist before the appointment.
Clifford Chance Paris ma-naging partner Yves Wehrli told The Lawyer that the firm had spoken to Bitton, a first-year assistant, about his performance a week before his appointment by the CFTC.
Wehrli also said Clifford Chance lawyers are employed with contracts of employment, unlike other firms in Paris, where lawyers are self-employed, so the firm is disproportionately affected by the strict French labour laws.
Clifford Chance has instructed Jean-Philippe Desanlis of Desanlis Eslami to act on its behalf in the case.
The parties agreed to adjourn the hearing from 7 January, and it will now take place later in the year.