The case was first brought to the French courts in 2000 when, tipped off by an employee from the recruitment agency, the charity SOS Racisme brought charges against the cosmetics giant.
According to the lawsuit, L’Oreal had issued a fax stating that employees called in to promote its Garnier hair products should be BBR, Bleu Blanc Rouge. The lawsuit alleged this was shorthand for white French people, cutting out any ethnic minorities.
In July 2007 the appeal court in Paris fined the three companies €30,000 for their discriminatory recruitment practices.
Guilty of racist employment practices
The case then went to appeal at the French Court of Cassation, France’s highest court and the equivalent of the US supreme court, which ruled on Tuesday that the three companies were indeed guilty of racism.
This decision is final and cannot be appealed, according to the French newspaper Le Monde.
However, details of the damages that must be paid by the companies to the plaintiff SOS Racisme have yet to be decided, and the Court of Cassation sent this part of the case back to the Appeal court in Paris.
Samuel Thomas, vice president of SOS Racisme was pleased with the judgement and said: “The complete chain of those responsible has been convicted, from L’Oreal who gave the discriminatory order to the recruitment agencies that executed it.”
L’Oreal ‘disappointed’ by the ruling
L’Oreal, however, is ‘disappointed’ by the decision and ‘continues to reject the accusations of discrimination made against its affiliate Garnier’.
“L’Oreal is convinced that difference and diversity are a source of richness and creativity for all, and does not tolerate any form of racism or discrimination of any kind,” said a L’Oreal spokesperson.
“The group emphasises that respect of individuals is one of its fundamental values,” the spokesperson added.