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French carmaker Renault convicted of racial discrimination

Published on April 03, 2008

   PARIS, April 23, 2008  - A French court on Wednesday found carmakerRenault guilty of discriminating against two black employees who had arguedthat they were denied promotions because of their race.   The Versailles appeals tribunal outside Paris overturned a lower courtruling in favour of Renault and ordered the carmaker to pay damages to LucienBreleur, born in Martinique, and Daniel Kotor, from Togo.   "The Renault company must repair the prejudice it caused to Mr Kotor and MrBreleur for blocking their career paths and maintaining their salaries at alower level than what they should have been," said the court in a ruling.   Breleur, who worked at Renault as an automobile electrician from 1971 to2003, was awarded 80,000 euros (124,900 dollars) in damages and interest and8,000 euros for moral harm.   Renault was ordered to pay Kotor, a labourer and administative clerk from1983 to 2004, 60,000 euros in damages and interests and 8,000 euros forcausing moral harm.   "It is the first time that the courts, which are usually very reluctant torule in this area, recognise Renault guilty of racial discrimination," saidlawyer Florence Laussucq-Caston, who represented the two ex-employees.   Renault was cleared of any wrongdoing in the case of another worker andthree other ex-employees.   The six plaintiffs, of African and Arab origin, were seeking one millioneuros in damages from Renault for discrimination.   The court found that Renault had not provided proof that the difference intreatment accorded to Breleur and Kotor compared to other employees was basedon factors other than race.   "Renault had to prove that these two employees who had good performancereviews, were motivated and good team players, were not hindered in theircareer because of their origin," said Laussucq-Caston.   "In the absence of proof, Renault was implicitly found guilty of racialdiscrimination," she said.   An assessment of the career paths of 10 Renault employees found that otherworkers benefitted from more promotions and opportunities than Breleur andKotor, the court found.   An employee with the personnel office had testified that management hadused racial epithets to describe Kotor, calling him a "monkey" and "nigger".   A previous ruling in December 2005 found that the six employees had notbeen victims of racial discrimination.