Shortage of fuel: if I can't go to work due to lack of gas, what the law says

Shortage of fuel: if I can’t go to work due to lack of gas, what the law says

The fuel shortage affecting France makes commuting to the workplace difficult for many employees. However, lack of fuel at the pump is not really a case of force majeure under labor law. Even if the period pushes companies into tolerance.

Many of them wonder every afternoon where to get gasoline or diesel so they can go to work the next morning. Given the fuel shortage that has affected around a third of French service stations for several days, with many dry pumps in the Lyon region, the queues in front of the service stations are long until late at night and early morning hours. And many times it is necessary to travel many kilometers before finding a supplied pump, despite the interactive maps that report the opening of this or that station in real time.

“a mason He told me last Friday that if he didn’t find gas this weekend, he couldn’t come on Monday. Finally he found some with difficulty. I have many artisans who tell me these days that it is difficult for them to find gasoline to go to work. Some get up at nightsays Raphaël Archier, project manager of the Rhône artisan group.

A mason told me last Friday that if he didn’t find gas this weekend he couldn’t come on Monday.

Raphael Archier

Project manager of the Artisans du Rhône group

At Transportes Félix, a company based in Chassieu, east of Lyon, the problem is the same. “At the moment the employees manage to come to work. But I know it’s not easy for them to fill up to move.”slides Franck Félix, president of this transport company with a fleet of twenty heavy vehicles.

Travel difficulties that could even increase in the coming days, because the strike movement has been renewed in five closed refineries, including that of Feyzin in the Rhône.

The head of Transportes Félix says that he would obviously be sympathetic if one of his employees were stuck at home with a car that ran out of fuel. But in reality, does the labor law protect employees who were unable to travel due to fuel shortages? In the premises of certain companies, word of mouth spreads in particular around the case of force majeure, which could be invoked to justify an absence in the current period.

An event of force majeure must be “unpredictable”, “irresistible” and beyond the control of the people involved

Anaïs Olivier, lawyer specializing in labor law.

“For me, the employee could not invoke the case of force majeure in the context of fuel shortage. A force majeure event must be “unpredictable”, “irresistible” and beyond the control of the persons involved. In the current situation, the criterion of unpredictability runs the risk of not being recognized. In labor law, the case of force majeure is rarely recognized.”explains Maître Anaïs Olivier, a lawyer specializing in labor law and registered with the Lyon Bar Association.

However, the employee, to justify his absence, must not have another means other than his car to go to work, such as carpooling, public transport, bicycle, etc. Which can be complex to prove.

Anaïs Olivier, lawyer

However, even if force majeure cannot be invoked by an employee, their total inability to go to work due to shortages may justify an absence or tardiness. “However, the employee, to justify his absence, must not have another means than his car to go to work, such as shared car, public transport, bicycle… Which can be complex to prove.”

However, the current context should encourage employers to show tolerance if it is impossible for an employee to go to their workplace. “In labor law, if the employer foresees a sanction, it must be proportionate to the fault, which must be assessed on a case-by-case basis”says Maître Anaïs Olivier. “If, for example, the employee has warned of his delay, because he must take public transport instead of his car and that he cannot, for example, advance his departure time due to family limitations, the disciplinary sanction dictated by this fact alone may not be justifiedthe lawyer continues.

In any event, “Employees and employers have every interest in considering, by mutual agreement, other solutions such as changing working hours, telecommuting, vacations or the RTT.


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