On 8 March 2023, a French court ruled that access to colleagues’ payslips can be requested in court to prove a discriminatory gender pay gap.
Gender pay gap: access to payslips as proof
In the case, a female employee believed that she was subject to discrimination because she has been paid less than her male colleagues occupying comparable positions, and this, for several years. After having been terminated, she took legal action against her last two consecutive employers, companies belonging to the same group, to obtain the payslips of her male colleagues as proof. Her request was based on the right to evidence according to article 145 of the French code of civil procedure.
Protection of personal data vs right to evidence
In this case, two fundamental rights are in conflict:
– the male colleague’s right to the protection of personal data contained in their payslips;
– the female employee’s right to evidence.
The French court emphasised that the right to the protection of personal data is not an absolute right. When it conflicts with other fundamental rights, it must be balanced in accordance with the principle of proportionality. Thus, the question is whether the communication of such elements is essential and whether the harm would be proportionate to the aim pursued.
The judgement: Employer ordered to provide payslips
Her past employers were ordered to communicate the payslips of 8 male colleagues occupying comparable positions over several years.
Some information contained on the French payslip had to be concealed, except for the employee’s name, the job classification, and the monthly and cumulative remuneration per calendar year.
Gender pay gap in France
According to official statistics issued by INSEE, in 2021, at equal working time (full-time equivalent (EQTP), the wage gap between women and men in France amounted to 15.5%.
This ruling is symbolic. It will now allow employees to obtain access to colleagues’ payslips through court order to prove a discriminatory wage inequality based on gender.