France: The obligation to use an interpreter for foreign companies that are candidates for a public contract

January 16th, 2018

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In a public tender launched by the region of "Pays de la Loire", the particular administrative clauses required to the candidates foreign companies, the use of an interpreter to present, to the non-francophone workers, their social rights in France and the safety standards that should be respected in the construction site.

The "Préfet" (French State representative in the region), considering this clause contrary to the principle of free competition for being discriminatory against foreign companies, requested its annulment before the administrative courts.

In a ruling of December 4th, 2017 (No. 413366), the "Conseil d'État" (Administrative Supreme Court) confirmed the validity of this "interpretation clause". For this, the Court considered, first of all, that the French Labor Code imposes the application of the essential principles of French labor law to foreign companies that post their workers in France. Second, the Court ruled that "Even assuming that the clause in question can restrict the effective exercise of a fundamental freedom, guaranteed by European Union law [free competition], it pursues an objective of general interest to which it guarantees compliance, without going beyond what is necessary to achieve it ".

According to the press release of the "Conseil d'État" concerning this ruling, the "interpretation clause" should not be confused with the well-known "Molière Clause", which imposes the exclusive use of the French language in construction sites and which has been censured by the administrative courts, considering that it does not aim for the protection of workers but to exclude posted workers and favor regional companies.

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