Exceeding the maximum daily working time necessarily causes prejudice to the employee.

Cass. soc., May 11 2023 n°21-22.281

In this ruling, the Cour of cassation decides that exceeding the maximum daily working time of 10 hours necessarily causes prejudice to the employee concerned.

In this case, an employee working as a pharmacy assistant for a nursing home was dismissed on March 30, 2015. She brought her case before the Conseil de Prud’hommes and, among her claims, sought damages for exceeding the daily working hours.

The Paris Court of Appeal rejected this claim. It noted that, while the employee had indeed worked days of over 10 hours, she “had not demonstrated that she had suffered any prejudice in this respect, which cannot be necessary but must be established”.

Before the High Court, the employee argued that disregarding the mandatory rules on maximum working hours necessarily caused her prejudice.

The Court of Cassation agreed, overturning the decision of the Court of Appeal.

It recalled that the Labor Code’s rules on effective daily working hours “are part of the objective of guaranteeing the health and safety of workers through adequate rest and effective compliance with the limits on maximum working hours embodied in European Directive 2003/88/EC on working time”.

It deduced that “the mere fact that the maximum working time has been exceeded gives rise to a right to compensation”.

This solution follows on from a ruling handed down by the Social Division on January 26, 2022, concerning maximum weekly working hours (Cass.soc.26 janvier 2022 n°20-21.636). On this occasion, the High Court established the principle that ” the mere fact of exceeding the maximum weekly working time entitles the employee to compensation”. More generally, this decision adds a further exception to the principle, asserted since 2016, that the prejudice claimed by the employee must be proven in order to be compensated (cass.soc.13 avril 2016, n°14-28.293).

In this case, this exception is based on the application of the European Directive on the organization of working time. We may therefore wonder whether this solution will be extended to all the maximum and minimum working hours provided for in the Directive: breaks, weekly rest periods, etc.