Combating discrimination and promoting equality

Combating discrimination

In France, the Defender of Rights is the authority in charge of defending and facilitating access to rights for victims of discrimination. You can reach out to the Defender of Rights if you consider yourself to have been a victim of discrimination.

The alleged person behind this discrimination may be a natural person (an individual) or a legal entity (an association or society for example), a private entity (a company) or public entity (a State department, a local authority or a public hospital for example).

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Défenseur des droits
Libre réponse 71120
75342 Paris CEDEX 07

The role of the defender of rights

Who can refer cases to the Defender of rights?

  • Any natural person (an individual) or a legal person (a company ...) who feels discriminated against
  • Its legal representatives (parents, representatives of protected children or adults)
  • An association declared for at least 5 years whose statutes combat discrimination jointly with the victim or with his agreement
  • A french parliamentarian and a french elected member of the European Parliament
  • Ses représentants légaux (parents, représentant d'enfants ou de majeurs protégés)
  • A foreign institution that has the same functions as the Defender of rights

The Defender of rights can seize himself when he considers that his intervention is necessary.

For an instance of discrimination to be acknowledged, three elements must be present:

  • less favourable treatment has been shown to a person;
  • on the basis of at least one ground stipulated by the law;
  • and which corresponds to a situation that is recognised by the law, such as recruitment, career path or access to housing, education, public services or public or private goods and services.

Not all differences in treatment amount to discrimination. The law also protects you if you are:

  • a victim of harassment on the basis of a discrimination ground;
  • sexually harassed;
  • punished for having denounced an instance of discrimination as a victim or witness.

What are the criteria defined by the law prohibiting discrimination?

These criteria have several sources. On the one hand, the international conventions and European texts define a base of criteria based on the characteristics of the person. On the other hand, the French legislator has added specific criteria, some referring to classical motives (nation, name, physical appearance) while others deal with specific situations (place of residence, loss of autonomy, etc.).

Criteria of discrimination and examples of situation

Criteria from international or European texts

I was denied a consumer credit because of my age.


A a woman, I earn less than my male colleague who does comparable work.


I was not hired because of my Maghrebi origins.

True or supposed belonging or non-belonging to an ethnic group, a nation or an alleged race

I was refused to rent a camping place because I am a foreigner.


I was not given my job back when I returned from maternity leave.


I was refused renewal of my employment contract because I was on sick leave.


I was not allowed to join a school leaving because of my disability.

Genetic characteristics

I was forced to undergo genetic tests as part of my pre-employment medical examination.

Sexual orientation

I was refused to rent a room for my wedding because I am homosexual.

Gender identity

I am a transgender woman and my employer refuses to change my pay slips.

Political views

The city hall refused to rent me a meeting place because of my political opinions.

Trade union activities

My career has not changed since I introduced myself as a union representative.

Philosophical views

My pension fund refuses to take into account the quarters completed during my national service because I was a conscientious objector.

True or supposed belonging or non-belonging to a particular religion

I was denied access to a gym because of my headscarf.


Creteria from French law
Family status

I was refused an apartment rental because I am an single mother.

Physical appearance

I was refused a job because I am obese.

Last name

I was denied a job interview of my foreing-sounding name.


I was refused a job because I am a smoker.

Living place

I was refused a check because I live in a neighboring department.

Autonomy loss

My father, who lives in a senior residence, complains that he does not have access to his glasses.

Particular vulnerability resulting from the economical situation

I was refused the opening of a bank account because I am domiciled in an association.

Ability to speak in a language other than french

This criterion can be subject of several very distinct interpretations. The carts will indicate which one is appropriate.

Bank domiciliation

My parents' surety was refused because they are domiciled overseas.

What are the general situations affected by discrimination?

The law specifies the situations in which it is forbidden to discriminate according to the previously defined criteria. These situations concern:

  • access to employment, career, disciplinary action, dismissal;
  • compensation, benefits;
  • access to private goods and services (housing, credit, recreation);
  • access to public goods and services (school, care, marital status, social services);
  • access to a welcoming place for the public (night club, prefecture, shop, town hall);
  • access to social protection;
  • education and training (condition of registration, admission, evaluation, etc.)

What are the specific situations assimilated to discrimination by the law?

Over time, the legislator has chosen to equate certain situations with discrimination. In these cases, listed below, shall be characterized the factual circumstances without it being necessary to expressly refer to a particular criterion:

  • refusal to register in the canteen when this service exists;
  • denial of access to health care;
  • the refusal to subscribe to an insurance contract or the inclusion in the calculation of premiums and benefits which have the effect of differences in premiums and benefits addressed to a donor of organs, cells or gametes;
  • the refusal to burial because of the beliefs or worship of the deceased or the circumstances that accompanied his death;
    inequalities of treatment, retaliation or retaliation related to:
    • the exercise of the right to strike;
    • the exercise of mutual activities;
    • acting as juror;
    • the refusal by an employee to an assignment on a post located in a country incriminating homosexuality;
      refusal or acceptance of hazing;
    • being a "whistleblower".




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