An employee brought an action before the labor court for back pay relating to days of travel during which he accompanied customers.

The trial court found that, during these customer-relations trips, the employee was to participate in “joint leisure activities organized with the company’s customers so as to strengthen the already-existing ties with them,” and that “the days spent on these trips were deducted from his accrued paid holidays.” He therefore acted on behalf of the company during these trips. The court of appeals nonetheless considered that the trips did not constitute actual worktime, because the employee (i) was not given any specific assignment to oversee or take care of the customers and (ii) failed to prove that the tasks accomplished infringed upon his free time.

The Supreme Court has based its analysis on the traditional definition of “actual work” within the meaning of Article L. 3121-1 of the Labor Code: the time during which the employee is at the employer’s disposal and must conform to the employer’s directives without being able to freely engage in personal occupations.

In the present case, the employee was not obligated to participate in the annual accompaniment trips to foreign countries. He was not assigned any specific responsibility to oversee or take care of the customers. Moreover, the employee was free to take his spouse with him and could, during these trips, engage in personal occupations without being at the disposal of the employer. The court of appeals was therefore right in deciding that these trips did not constitute actual worktime.