How to complain

You have the right to complain if you think you have been discriminated against.

In this section, you will find information about where and how to submit a complaint about discrimination in France.

Before you make a formal complaint, it is important to understand what you want to achieve. If your rights have been violated, you are entitled to a remedy, which can take many forms like an apology, compensation, reinstatement etc. Before you decide to complain, it is important to understand which form of remedy you are willing to receive.

Read more about complaining against discriminations.

Informal complaint

Sometimes it is better to try to resolve the problem informally first. You can raise the issue with your employer, educational institution, service provider, etc., depending, of course, on where you have experienced the discrimination. This may save the time and costs of legal proceedings. If you have not received any response, or the response was not satisfactory, you may decide to proceed with a formal complaint.

Formal complaints to state institutions and courts

Sometimes it is better to start with a complaint to the state institutions dealing with discrimination in general or which have control over a particular sector. There are various state institutions that have the task of overseeing activities in different sectors, such as health, education, the provision of goods and services etc. 

important If you choose to complain to these specialized authorities first, you must be careful not to miss procedural deadlines for filing the complaint in court, which in some cases is the only authority that can decisively resolve your discrimination case and award compensation.

Administrative sanctions

An administrative authority can impose a fine for discrimination against a company or an individual. For example, the Regulatory Authority for Audiovisual and Digital Communication (Arcom) is an independent administrative authority which can impose sanctions to companies who fail to comply with their obligations.

example Arcom fined the a TV channel (C8 group) three million euros for a television program which was discriminating against homosexuals. This fine may be subject to review by the administrative court.

Criminal sanctions

Discrimination is punishable under the French Criminal Law. The violation of the prohibition of discrimination is punishable by three years' imprisonment and a €45,000 fine if it consists of refusing to supply a good or service, hindering the normal exercise of any economic activity or refusing to hire or fire a person.

It is also punishable under the Criminal Law if such discrimination was committed by a state official, a responsible employee of a company, or a group of persons or in using an automated data processing system. If committed by a civil servant, the violation is punishable by 5 years' imprisonment and €75,000 fine if the discrimination consists of refusing the benefit of a right granted or hindering the normal exercise of any economic activity.

Complaints to international human rights bodies

If you think that the violation of your rights has not been remedied by French institutions or courts, you can submit a complaint to international and European institutions, such as the European Court of Human Rights, the Court of Justice of the European Union or the UN Human Rights Committee. However, you should keep in mind that in order to complain to these international courts and institutions, there are strict conditions to fulfil.

About this section

This section of the Guide will explain, how and where to complain about discrimination, and where to seek help.

Read more about the complaint procedures:


Last updated 09/11/2023