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Consequences following the loss of an employee’s personal vehicle used for professional purposes.

The employment contract of an employee, who was hired as a distributor, expressly provided that the he would use his personal vehicle for the performance of his functions and that in case of loss of the driver’s license or loss of the personal vehicle, the employment contract would be suspended or even terminated.

When the employee’s vehicle was seized, the employer temporarily assigned other duties to the employee and then suspended his employment contract, granting him some time to acquire a new vehicle. At the end of this period, that is 8 months after the seizure of the vehicle, the employer dismissed the employee, on the ground that the lack of vehicle made the performance of the employment contract impossible.

The employee then challenged his dismissal, claiming that it was based on a resolutive clause and on a fact related to his personal life, not making the continuation of the contract impossible.

The employee also claimed for a back-pay for the suspension period preceding his dismissal, and the Court of Appeals granted the request considering the employer has a duty to either provide another work or to dismiss the employee without waiting in order to allow him to benefit from unemployment benefits.

For its part, the French Supreme Court in its 28 November 2018 decision decided that:
– The employee had breached his contractual obligations and that this breach made the continuation of the contract impossible.
– The salary, during the suspension period was not due as the employee was unable to perform any work, given that no legal provision, contractual or conventional, compelled the employer to maintain the salary (unlike in the case of illness, accident, etc.).

Therefore, an employer wishing to dismiss an employee because of the loss of a personal vehicle or of a driver’s license will have to characterize (i) a breach of contract by the employee (ii) making the continuation of a contractual relationship impossible.

French Supreme Court., 28-11-18, n°17-15379