France's rail operator convicted of discrimination

AP News
Posted: Feb 01, 2018 7:13 AM

PARIS (AP) — France's national rail operator has been convicted of discrimination against more than 800 Moroccan employees throughout their career.

The SNCF had been sentenced to pay more than 170 million euros ($210 million at current exchange rates) in compensation back in 2015 after a court specializing in labor disputes ruled that several hundred "chibanis" — which translates as "white hair" — were offered less generous contracts than French colleagues when they were hired in the 1970's.

SNCF appealed the rulings but a Paris court upheld the decision, the operator said in a statement late Wednesday. According to the ruling, which relates to 864 cases, the chibanis did the same work as their French colleagues and ruled that the discrimination was blatant.

The court said "SNCF did not demonstrate that this difference in treatment was justified by objective reasons."

SNCF was sentenced to pay 290,000 euros ($361,000) to each employee in compensation. The court did not release the details of each case, and no aggregate amount was provided.

Clelie de Lesquen-Jonas, the lawyer for the workers, said SNCF is obliged to pay the compensatory damages immediately even if the company opts to go further in the appeal process.

The Moroccan workers were not offered the rail workers' status including numerous advantages and benefits. SNCF said for its defense that employees must have French citizenship to be hired as rail workers or, since 1991, to be nationals from a European Union country.

"The SNCF is an attitude of denial," De Lesquen-Jonas told The Associated Press. "About 400 workers had become French, and the others were performing the same tasks. That's what mattered. This ruling is bringing a great joy to us."