(July 2, 2008) Law 2008-496 of May 27, 2008, transposes into national law various measures to combat discrimination to comply with three European Union directives: Directive 2000/43/EU of June 29, 2000 (equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin); Directive 2000/78/EU of November 27, 2000 (general legal framework on equal treatment in employment); and Directive 2002/73/EU of September 23, 2002 (equal treatment for men and women in access to employment, vocational training, promotion and working conditions). France had not entirely complied with the directives and the European Commission had started three procedures against France for failure to fully transpose the directives within the prescribed time.
The European Commission noted that French law only defined direct discrimination in its Criminal Code. There was no definition in relation to civil matters. Indirect discrimination was not defined in either criminal or civil law. The new Law adds the definitions in compliance with the directives. In addition, community law considers harassment a form of discrimination, “where an unwanted conduct related to racial or ethnic origin takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.” The 2008 Law also complies with this concept.
The Law states the conditions under which differences of treatment are authorized without constituting discrimination, in principle, “when they respond to an essential and determining occupational requirement, provided that the objective is legitimate and the requirement proportionate.” It further provides that
The differences of treatment on grounds of age are not discriminatory if they are objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim, notably, to ensure the health or security of workers, to promote their vocational integration, to ensure their employment or their compensation in case of the loss of their employment, and when the means to realize this aim are necessary and appropriate.
Finally, the Law reinforces the protection of plaintiffs and witnesses against reprisals. (Loi 2008-496 du 27 mai 2008 portant diverses dispositions d'adaptation au droit communautaire dans le domaine de la lutte contre les discriminations, JOURNAL OFFICIEL [France's official Gazette], May 28, 2008, at 8801.)