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The EEOC and its French equivalent: the HALDE – a Comparison

The HALDE (Haute Autorité de Lutte contre les Discriminations – Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination Commission), the French equivalent of the EEOC, released its annual report (in French only) in April 2011. This document highlights the differences between discrimination claims in the US and discrimination claims in France, and even in Europe in general.

By reading this report, one would notice that in France too, discrimination claims are rising, even more so than in the US. For the last three years, the number of claims brought before the HALDE has risen by 20% each year and there were 12,467 claims filed in 2010. In the US, statistics published by the EEOC show a rise of 7.12% in the number of claims between 2009 and 2010. The number of charges diminished in 2009, by 2.2% after a rise of 15.2% in 2008. There were 99,992 charges brought before the EEOC in 2010.

In 2010, the maximum amount of damages allocated by a judge in a case where the HALDE was present was 280,000€ ($394,000) for gender and pregnancy discrimination. In France, national origin and disability are the most alleged discrimination and represent respectively 27% and 20% of complaints. Because the EEOC does not consolidate statistics in the same way, it is hard to compare the data. However, race was among the primary types of alleged discrimination in 2010, with 35.9% of the claims, compared to 36.3% being retaliation claims. Disability also represents 25.2% of the claims in the US.

The HALDE aims at improving employment law and defending workers’ rights. The commission issues reports and resolutions that are most of the time followed by either courts or the government. For example, the HALDE argued that it was discriminatory to require candidates who wish to pass the police entrance exam to be of a minimum stature. Thereafter, the French Government decided to remove the requirement.

Just like the EEOC, the French HALDE can also decide to file a complaint with the District Attorney when there is a discrimination claim. It can also support the employee before the Court by filing an amicus brief. Statistics show that in 81% of cases, courts will follow the commission’s recommendation.

In its report, the HALDE quotes some of the examples that led the commission to file a complaint with the DA. For example, in one case, an employer refused to hire a young black painter, arguing “this young guy is black, it won’t work well with clients.” In another case, a recruiter wrote an e-mail to a pregnant candidate who previously been offered a job, saying: “However your application cannot be sustained in the light of the fact that you’re expecting a baby, and we are delighted for you.” In the latter case, the HALDE decided to file a criminal lawsuit for discriminatory refusal to hire, which is a criminal offense in France, punishable by three years imprisonment and 45,000€ fine (article 225-2 3° of the French Penal code).

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