UPDATE: A EuropaCorp spokesperson has responded to Deadline’s request for comment following a Wednesday criminal court hearing during which a Paris prosecutor called for a 10-month suspended prison sentence for filmmaker Luc Besson, as well as various fines over the firing of a former assistant. The spokesperson notes “profound exasperation” and refers to the current case as “bashing” replete with “false allegations.”
At issue is the alleged discriminatory dismissal of Besson’s executive assistant “Sophie F.” who joined Europa in 2015 and was fired for “serious misconduct” in January 2018. A decision in the case will be rendered on January 8.
Says the EuropaCorp rep today: “We take note of the prosecutor’s indictment. We note that this indictment is in perfect contradiction with the decision of the labor board of October 9, 2019. On exactly the same question and the only question put to the criminal court, that is to say that of a discriminatory dismissal, the labor board decided that ‘nothing could strengthen’ the demand for the discriminatory nature of the dismissal. The application for recognition of discriminatory firing character, when it was judged, was declared unfounded. Europacorp is therefore waiting tranquilly for the decision of the Bobigny court.”
PREVIOUS, 4:23 AM PT: A French prosecutor has recommended a 10-month suspended prison sentence for filmmaker Luc Besson in a criminal case over the firing of a former assistant, as well as a combined 80,000 euros in fines against Besson and his company EuropaCorp, local media is reporting.
A hearing in the Paris suburb of Bobigny was held on Wednesday, without the presence of Besson whose attorney said he was stuck in traffic. At issue is the alleged discriminatory dismissal of executive assistant “Sophie F.” who joined Europa in 2015 and was fired for “serious misconduct” in January 2018. A decision in the case will be rendered on January 8.
The claimant alleges that she was refused three days of vacation over a French holiday in 2017 and physically collapsed, according to the testimony of a colleague present that day. She was then put on medical leave by her doctor under a certificate known in France as an “arrêt de travail.” EuropaCorp reportedly considered the reasons behind the work stoppage as “fraudulent” and designed to allow Sophie F to take days off in an “irregular” manner.
During the three following months that Sophie F was on medical leave, she was judged by four doctors to be unable to return to work, reports say. The current case wound up in criminal court after a long investigation by the Labor Inspector. Dismissal based on an employee’s health status represents a criminal offense in France, Le Monde notes.
The president of the Bobigny court on Wednesday, Alexandra Vaillant, summarized elements that characterized the working relationship between Sophie F. and Besson including “requests by SMS on her personal phone at night, on weekends and during her holidays,” with “tasks relating to (Besson and his family’s) private life,” France Info reports. In a separate case, the plaintiff previously won a ruling of “moral harassment” against Besson.
On Wednesday, the prosecutor, Rémi Chaise, compared Besson’s alleged treatment of his employee to that seen in The Devil Wears Prada and described the filmmaker as a “tyrannical personality” who placed his assistant “in a state of permanent subjection.” Sophie F described herself as having become for Besson “his slave.”
Besson’s attorney, Arnaud de Senilhes, called the request for a suspended prison sentence and the fines “out of proportion” and said Sophie F was not dismissed “because she was on sick leave” but “during” her sick leave. He contended there is “no place for a criminal conviction” in the case.
Deadline has reached out to EuropaCorp for comment.