23 September 2015

SNCF loses class action suit over discrimination

SNCF, the French state rail operator, faces a huge legal bill after losing a 16 year battle with former employees who had suffered racial discrimination.

By Bernard Goyder

The high court decision entails payouts of between €150,000 and €230,000 to individuals who worked under discriminatory contracts.

French state-owned rail company SNCF has been ordered to pay €140m compensation to hundreds of Moroccan workers a court has found suffered racial discrimination. The class action suit by almost 800 plaintiffs followed policy of employing the North African railwaymen on ‘foreign worker’ contracts, denying them many of the protections enjoyed by French staff. The decision by the tribunal de grande instance, the French High Court, was welcomed by trade unions.

Forcibly retired

Le Monde reported that the Moroccan workers did not have the same health and pension rights and retired with lower rates of pensions, despite doing the same work as French staff. Many were forcibly retired at the age of 55.

Wider implications 

The success of the case for the plaintiffs has important implications for French companies that have hired migrant labour from the 1970s onwards. Former employees in other industries may be more likely to launch a suit now the court battle has come to a conclusion. Ahmed Katim, who was hired by French railways in 1972, said: 'It’s an enormous satisfaction: dignity to the Moroccans'. Source: Le Monde

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