Un salarié domicilié en Autriche agit contre son employeur allemand aux fins de paiement d’arriérés de salaire, d’une indemnité de congés payés et de gratifications dues, devant un tribunal autrichien. Le contrat avait été conclu à Salzbourg. Le travail était censé être effectué à Munich. Mais finalement, aucun travail n’est confié au salarié qui est licenciée. L’incompétence du tribunal autrichien est soulevée, ce qui le conduit à saisir la Cour de Justice.
Le Tribunal se demande tout d’abord si les dispositions protectrices des travailleurs prévues par le Règlement (UE) n° 1215/2012 du 12 décembre 2012 concernant la compétence judiciaire, la reconnaissance et l’exécution des décisions en matière civile et commerciale s’appliquent à un rapport de travail dans le cadre duquel un travailleur, bien qu’ayant conclu un contrat de travail en Autriche, n’a effectué aucun travail tout en s’étant pourtant tenu prêt à travailler.
La Cour, après avoir rappelé que la notion de contrat individuel de travail prévue par l’article 20 du Règlement est une notion autonome, rappelle que cela suppose un lien de subordination à l’égard de l’employeur et qu’une personne doive être « obligée d’accomplir, pendant un certain temps, en faveur d’une autre et sous la direction de celle‑ci, des prestations en contrepartie desquelles elle a le droit de percevoir une rémunération (voir, par analogie, arrêts du 10 septembre 2015, Holterman Ferho Exploitatie e.a., C‑47/14, EU:C:2015:574, points 40 et 41, ainsi que du 11 avril 2019, Bosworth et Hurley, C‑603/17, EU:C:2019:310, points 25 et 26) » (CJUE, 25 fév. 2021, C-804/19,BU contre Markt24 GmbH , point 25»).
La Cour énonce ensuite, ce qui peut sembler évident, que les parties sont liées par un contrat de travail même si celui-ci n’est pas exécuté. Elle juge donc que les dispositions protectrices s’appliquent bien en l’espèce.
Le tribunal autrichien avait également interrogé la Cour sur le point de savoir si les règles autrichiennes de compétence plus favorables au salarié pouvaient être appliquées à la place des dispositions du Règlement UE n° 1215/2012. La réponse négative, retenue par la Cour, était évidente.
La Cour était encore interrogée sur la détermination de la juridiction compétente en vertu de l’article 21 du Règlement. Cet article offre au travailleur plusieurs options pour assigner son employeur. L’article 21 § 1 dispose : « 1. Un employeur domicilié sur le territoire d’un État membre peut être attrait: a) devant les juridictions de l’État membre où il a son domicile; ou b) dans un autre État membre:
- i) devant la juridiction du lieu où ou à partir duquel le travailleur accomplit habituellement son travail ou
devant la juridiction du dernier lieu où il a accompli habituellement son travail; ou
- ii) lorsque le travailleur n’accomplit pas ou n’a pas accompli habituellement son travail dans un même pays, devant la juridiction du lieu où se trouve ou se trouvait l’établissement qui a embauché le travailleur »
L’employeur avait son domicile en Allemagne. Il n’avait été assigné en Autriche, juridiction qui pouvait être considérée comme compétente en vertu du b) à condition d’admettre que le travailleur avait accompli habituellement son travail en Autriche ou à partir de l’Autriche. Mais aucun travail n’avait été effectué puisque l’employeur n’avait confié aucun travail au salarié. Le seul indice du lieu de travail était livré par le contrat qui prévoyait que le travail devait être effectué essentiellement à Munich. Selon la Cour : « … la notion de « lieu où le travailleur accomplit habituellement son travail », consacrée à l’article 19, point 2, sous a), du règlement no 44/2001, qui correspond à l’article 21, paragraphe 1, sous b), i), du règlement no 1215/2012, doit être interprétée comme visant le lieu où, ou à partir duquel, le travailleur s’acquitte de fait de l’essentiel de ses obligations à l’égard de son employeur (voir, en ce sens, arrêt du 14 septembre 2017, Nogueira e.a., C‑168/16 et C‑169/16, EU:C:2017:688, point 59). »
La Cour poursuit en ces termes : « lorsque le contrat de travail n’a pas été exécuté, l’intention exprimée par les parties au contrat en ce qui concerne le lieu de cette exécution est, en principe, le seul élément permettant d’établir un lieu de travail habituel aux fins de l’article 21, paragraphe 1, sous b), i), du règlement no 1215/2012. En effet, cette interprétation permet d’assurer au mieux un haut degré de prévisibilité des règles de compétence, le lieu de travail envisagé par les parties dans le contrat de travail étant, en principe, facile à identifier. », ce qui renvoyait en l’espèce à Munich.
Sauf à appliquer l’article 7 5) du Règlement relatif à l’exploitation d’une succursale, la juridiction autrichienne ne pouvait donc être saisie de la demande (CJUE, 25 fév. 2021, C-804/19,BU contre Markt24 GmbH).
51 Commentaires sur “Compétence internationale en matière de contrat individuel de travail”
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