Ban On Stores’ Late Hours Is Lawful, French Court Says

April 5, 2014

France’s ban keeping stores from being open late at night does not run afoul of the country’s constitution, a top court has ruled. Cosmetics retailer Sephora had hoped to keep its flagship Paris store open until midnight. Instead, the shop must observe the traditional closing time of 9 p.m., according to the ruling.

The issue, France’s Constitutional Council court says, is one of balance between free enterprise and rules that protect workers’ health, according to Le Parisien newspaper.

NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley reports for our Newscast unit:

“Sephora says the court’s decision goes against the right to conduct enterprise. Until September and the lawsuit by unions, Sephora kept its main Champs-Elysees store open until midnight and 1 a.m. on weekends, to capitalize on late-night tourist shopping.

“French unions have long fought retailers’ encroachment into night and Sunday work, which is still taboo in France.

“French labor law says companies can ask employees to work between 9:00 pm and 6:00 a.m. — but such shifts must be ‘exceptional,’ not the rule.

“The court ruled the law provides the right balance between the freedoms needed to manage a company and requirements on “protecting the health and rest” of workers.

“The court’s decision was in complete contrast to the new French government’s vow to tackle unemployment. But the taboo on Sunday and night work is so entrenched in French culture that no one seemed to notice the incongruity.”

It remains to be seen whether the court’s ruling will be noticed by GM, whose Cadillac division recently sparked controversy with an ad that made fun of France’s approach to work and time off.

Here’s that ad’s finishing line:

“It’s pretty simple. You work hard. You create your own luck. And you gotta believe anything is possible. As for all the stuff, that’s the upside of only taking two weeks off in August, n’est-ce pas?”

The ad led Gerry Hadden, a reporter for PRI’s The World, to ask his French in-laws, Bob and Francine, for their thoughts. A sample:

“What a shame,” Francine says. “What a shame; If that’s his way of thinking and his purpose in life.”

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit

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