A job seeker does not benefit from the presumption of inexcusable fault on the part of the employer.

In a ruling handed down on November 16, the French Supreme Court reiterated that the presumption of inexcusable fault on the part of the employer cannot be invoked by a jobseeker who has signed an on-the-job assessment agreement.

Request for recognition of inexcusable fault

On October 10, 2013, a jobseeker signed an on-the-job assessment agreement with Pôle emploi and a company owning a zoo. A few weeks later, he suffered an accident while cleaning the cage of one of the zoo's wild animals. The accident was covered by professional legislation.

The victim, a job-seeker, brought an action before a Social Security court seeking recognition of Pôle emploi's inexcusable fault.

Inexcusable fault on the part of the employer presupposes that the latter could have been aware of the danger and that no preventive measures were taken. There are, however, cases where inexcusable fault is presumed.Article L 4154-3 of the French Labour Code stipulates that inexcusable fault is presumed to have been established in the case of employees on fixed-term contracts, temporary employees and company trainees who are victims of an accident at work or an occupational disease, if their workstation presents particular risks to their health or safety, or if they have not received the reinforced safety training provided for underarticle L 4154-2 of the same code.

The presumption of inexcusable fault inapplicable during a workplace assessment

On appeal, the victim's claim was rejected on the grounds that she was not a trainee and therefore could not claim the benefit of the presumption of inexcusable fault.

Dissatisfied with the decision, she appealed to the French Supreme Court. However, in a ruling handed down on November 16, 2023, the Cour de cassation agreed with the judges of the court of first instance, stating that the qualification of trainee is established when the person is welcomed into thecompany by virtue of a training agreement, concluded for a fixed term. In this case, however, the trainee had signed an "agreement with Pôle emploi to carry out an on-the-job assessment". She therefore did not qualify as a trainee.

Consequently, while jobseekers benefit from the protection afforded to victims of accidents at work, this procedure does not extend to the presumption of inexcusable fault reserved for employees and trainees.

On January 5, 2023, the high court intervened in another dispute concerning the presumption of inexcusable fault. At that time, it recalled that such fault is presumed when an employee who is the victim of an accident at work or an occupational disease has previously informed the employer of the risk that has materialized. In this case, the Cour de cassation ruled against an employee who had only reported the conflictual nature of his relationship with his superior, and not the risk that materialized.