Paris’ high court on Wednesday said the management must pay 3,000 euros, or $3,295 at current exchange, in damages and to cover legal costs.
The ruling has spurred contrasting reactions.
“This is a beautiful victory,” Charles Henry Paradis, a member of the works council who represents employees on the company board, told WWD following the decision reached by the Tribunal de Grande Instance.
“All points put forward by the company have been rejected by the court. We now expect strong action on the part of the board of directors,” said Paradis, arguing that “this legal battle launched by the Lanvin management has damaged the company’s image.”
A spokeswoman for the house’s management, meanwhile, said that what the decision meant is “that the court declared itself incompetent to rule in the matter.”
“It’s a legal issue,” Johann Sultan of CBR & Associés, which represents the brand, told WWD. “The court has decided that it has no jurisdiction to decide in the matter. It basically says: ‘Sorry this is too complicated. It’s more a case that needs to be discussed on the merit’ — and not via what we call a ‘procedure de référé’ or ‘summary procedure.’ The decision may seem strange, but it’s quite frequent under French law. To use football terms, this match has ended 0-to-0.”
But the work council’s lawyer Isabelle Schucké-Niel, of law firm Schucké-Niel Avocats, had another take. “This is not a draw. This is a victory for the works council, which never caused any trouble within the company, neither by e-mail nor via its messaging boards. What the judge said is: ‘There is no trouble, no urgency. Stop it.’”
“This decision is shameful for the company’s management,” she continued. “They should have respected the law in the first place instead of taking this case in front of a judge.”
As reported, the management of Lanvin had engaged in legal proceedings against the works council to stop it from using the company’s e-mail and messaging boards to share information with members of staff regarding its star designer’s ouster.
While Sultan asked the judge to order staff representatives to take down several documents posted on the company’s bulletin boards, including two letters written by Elbaz, Schucké-Niel asked to dismiss all the company’s requests, arguing the works council was up against “an opaque system of obstruction and autocracy” that did not approve of employees seeking information about the finances of the company, which is poised to post its first loss since 2007. She also added that the two letters written by Elbaz and put up on the board were specifically addressed to the employees.
Although the company has 15 days to appeal the decision, a spokeswoman for Lanvin told WWD on Wednesday that “the top management decided not to continue the legal proceeding which would take too long,” instead focusing on “building a nice, social climate” within the company.