local lawAlsace and Moselle benefit from a legal system that is different from the French legal system, commonly referred to as local law.  

1/ The origin of local law

A local law In Alsace and Moselle, Alsace and Moselle were annexed for the first time by the German Empire on May 10, 1871 at the time of the Treaty of Frankfurt.

From that date on, the laws of the German Empire were applied throughout the territory of Alsace and Moselle.

In 1919, Alsace and Moselle were reintegrated into the French state with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. However, the elected representatives of these three departments wanted to keep the laws of the Weimar Republic, which were perceived as more favorable to the population, as they considered them to be an “original and modern legislative construction”.

This principle of maintaining the previous texts was formalized in a law of 17 October 1919 relating to the transitional regime of Alsace and Lorraine. Two laws of June 1, 1924, followed by an ordinance of September 15, 1945, allowed the effective integration of local law into the national legislature.

Finally, the Constitutional Council recognized local law as a fundamental principle recognized by the laws of the Republic in its decision rendered on the occasion of a priority question of constitutionality, on August 5, 2011 in the “SOMODIA Society” case. From now on, local law is part of the constitutionality block.

The term “local law” covers a whole series of specific rules relating to several topics, in particular hunting, associations, cults and religious congregations or labor law.

Below we detail some of the main rules of labor law specific to local law.

2/ Some specificities of local law in labor law

2-1 The non-competition clause

The non-competition clause, inserted in the employment contract or in the collective agreement, aims at limiting the freedom of an employee to perform, after the termination of his employment contract, competing functions with a competitor or on his own account.

In order to be valid, the non-competition clause must be limited geographically and temporally, must cover a specific activity, must be subject to financial compensation and must be essential to protect the legitimate interests of the company.

In common law

The parties are free to set the amount of the financial compensation.

In addition, the employer may at any time waive the application of the non-competition clause in accordance with the terms of the employment contract or the collective bargaining agreement, or failing that, with the employee’s consent. In practice, the employer may therefore decide, at the time of termination of the employment contract, to release the employee from any prohibition of competition. In return, the employer is no longer required to pay the non-competition indemnity.

In local law

Local law contains a number of special provisions for employees described as “commercial clerks”. According to article 74 of the local commercial code, a commercial clerk is “one who is employed by a merchant to provide commercial services in return for payment”.

Contrary to common law, local law provides in particular that :

  • The consideration is at least equal to 50% of the gross remuneration ;
  • This clause cannot be terminated without notice. Therefore, if the employer waives the non-competition clause, the compensation due will be maintained for one year.

2-2 Salary continuation in case of illness

In common law

In the private sector, there is a waiting period of 3 days before daily allowances are paid and salary is maintained. For the following days, a partial salary continuation is provided for by the French Labor Code (article L. 1226-1), or by contractual provisions.

In local law

  • For commercial clerks

Commercial clerks who are off work due to an accident, for which they are not at fault, benefit from a continuation of their salary for a period of six weeks. The seniority of the commercial clerk is irrelevant. (article L. 1226-24 of the French Labor Code).

  • For other employees

Employees whose place of work is located in Alsace or Moselle benefit from a 100% salary maintenance (after deduction of the amount of daily allowances paid by the employer) in case of absence beyond their control (article L. 1226-23 of the French Labor Code) within the limit of a period of time known as “relatively unimportant”, assessed according to their seniority in the company. Moreover, the salary is maintained from the first day of the employee’s absence, and therefore without any waiting period.

For example, the salary continuation of an employee absents for medical reasons or for maternity-related reasons for a period of 10 weeks with almost 5 years of seniority was deemed to comply with the criteria set out.

Finally, there is no provision for a medical check-up under local law.

If you are interested in this subject, you can also read our article: “Droit local : le maintien de salaire est maintenu” (“Local law: salary maintenance is maintained”).

2-3 Sunday rest and public holidays

In common law

11 days are public holidays in France. Only May 1st is a mandatory holiday. As regards Sunday rest, numerous exemptions are provided for. It should be noted that certain activities benefit from a permanent derogation (article R. 3132-5 of the French Labor Code)

In local law

Alsace and Moselle have 13 public holidays!

Under local law, Sundays and public holidays are in principle all days off.

A few exceptions to common law may apply in Alsace. In industries or industrial companies operating continuously (article L. 3134-1 andL. 3132-14 of the Labor Code) and in those that have set up relief teams, local law refers to the provisions of ordinary law.

Secondly, some specific derogations are permitted by the article L. 3134-5 of the French Labor Code. For instance, an employee may be required to work on a Sunday in order to carry out an inventory prescribed by law.

Finally, regulatory exemptions and prefectoral authorizations allow for work on Sundays or public holidays (articles L. 3134-8 and L. 3134-6).

2-4 Notice of resignation

The notice period is the official notification sent by the employee to his or her employer that he or she is no longer contractually bound to the latter, at the end of a certain period (article R 3132-5 of the French Labor Code).

In common law

The duration of the notice period is governed by the provisions of a collective agreement, a collective agreement, the employment contract or by the practices of a profession in a particular sector.

Under local law

Commercial clerks, managers, technicians and supervisors, benefit from a notice period reduced to 6 weeks (article L. 1234-16 of the French Labor Code).

For other employees, only 15 days’ notice is required (article L. 1234-15 of the French Labor Code)