Freedom of contract
Freedom of contract means in practice that the employer is in principle free to terminate the employment contract for any reason he wishes, as long as he respects the notice period. Some of these reasons, however, are abuses of rights and can be sanctioned by wrongful termination.
Protection of personality
Freedom of contract is limited by the employer's duty to protect the personality of his employee. He or she must respect and protect the characteristics inherent to the personality of his or her employee, such as his/her sex, nationality, family situation or age.
Abuse of rights
The Code of Obligations provides that certain grounds for termination inherent to the employee's personality are abusive. When an employer dismisses an employee on the basis of the employee's skin color, pregnancy, character or sexual orientation, it is a case of discrimination. Such a dismissal is unlawful unless this reason causes serious harm to the work in the company.
Some situations are particularly sensitive. An employer who terminates an employee because he or she is suspected of stealing because of his or her skin color. A termination that occurs just after the employee's maternity leave for restructuring reasons. An employer who terminates an employee's employment contract because of conflicts within the company caused by her wearing a headscarf. The question of whether such terminations are permissible or whether the employer is liable is a delicate one.
Where an employee has suffered a dismissal, he or she may seek remedial compensation from the employer. The amount of this compensation will be determined by the severity of the case. It can be up to 6 months of salary.