PARIS — John Galliano on Thursday won the right to have the case pitting him against his former employers, Christian Dior Couture SA and John Galliano SA, heard in a labor court.
The Paris Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by Dior, which was seeking to move the case to a commercial court, and ordered Christian Dior Couture SA and John Galliano SA to each pay the disgraced designer 2,500 euros, or $3,400 at current exchange, in addition to court costs.
Galliano was dismissed in March 2011 after 15 years as the couturier at Dior, following a series of public outbursts during which he uttered racist and anti-Semitic insults in a Paris café. He was also ousted from the fashion house that bears his name.
At his trial on charges of public insult in June 2011, Galliano blamed work-related stress and multiple addictions for his behavior. It is understood he is seeking compensation in the range of 6 million euros, or $8.3 million, for his dismissal.
Christian Dior Couture SA and John Galliano SA have two months to appeal Thursday’s decision. Jean Néret of Jeantet Associés, the lawyer representing the two companies, said no decision had been made. In a statement, Christian Dior Couture said it took note of the court ruling, but maintained it was justified in firing Galliano.
“The decision to fire Mr. Galliano as a result of these incidents is based on fundamental principles and the rule of law. Christian Dior Couture reaffirms its attachment to the rules of human respect and non-discrimination, which it expects all of its collaborators, without exception, to adhere to strictly,” it said.
Galliano’s lawyer, Chantal Giraud-van Gaver of Coblence & Associés, said Thursday’s ruling cleared the way for the merits of the case to be argued next year in front of the Conseil de prud’hommes, or Labor Relations Court, in what is bound to be a protracted procedure in a cluttered legal jurisdiction.
In her arguments to the court, she maintained that Galliano was a salaried employee, while Dior said it considered the British fashion maverick more an independent contractor.
“The court recognized the existence of a work contract and did so in an extremely detailed fashion, supported by a lot of evidence and assessments of situations showing that he was a subordinate,” Giraud-van Gaver said.
It its ruling, the court quoted the contents of a number of e-mails sent to Galliano by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Arnault and Christian Dior president and ceo Sidney Toledano, providing a glimpse into their behind-the-scenes relationship during his tenure.
In an e-mailed dated Sept. 5, 2006, Arnault told Galliano the cost of his catwalk shows was too high and accused him of degrading the image of the house of Dior by opting for “eccentricity and extravagance” over “sophistication and refinement.” In another, dated Sept. 18, 2006, he took Galliano to task for using poor quality fabrics.
A message dated Jan. 9, 2009, requested that Galliano include the house’s iconic Bar jacket in his collection and feature several Lady Dior handbags on the catwalk.
Toledano wrote to Galliano on April 29, 2009, saying journalists were complaining about a lack of access to the designer and asking him to set up a weekly schedule of meetings with members of the press. “This is very important for the image of Dior and to counter our competitors, like Chanel, who are currently very active on this front,” he said, according to the court ruling.
Néret noted that a Paris commercial court in March rejected a separate claim for damages by Galliano’s company, Cheyenne Freedom, following the termination of its consultancy agreements with Christian Dior Couture SA in March 2011.
In a little-publicized decision, the court ordered Cheyenne Freedom to pay Dior 1.17 million euros, or $1.5 million at average exchange rates for the period, as compensation for hurting the company’s image and reputation.