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French trade unionists succeeded in banning stores from opening late in Paris, after France’s Constitutional Council threw out a challenge by cosmetics giant Sephora that the ban infringed “the freedom of enterprise” guaranteed by the Constitution.

Until September 2013, Sephora had been keeping its main Champs-Elysees store open until midnight on weekdays and up to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays to meet the demand for late-night shopping opportunities from tourists visiting the French capital. The store claimed it earned 20 per cent of its revenues due to these later hours.

These practices caused French trade unionists to file a case to defend employees’ rights. Under French law, companies can ask employees to work between 9pm and 6am but such shifts have to be “exceptional” rather than the rule and justified by a tightly defined set of criteria. Sephora, in turn, claimed that law was against the notion of freedom of enterprise.

April 4, 2014 France’s Constitutional Council rejected the store’s argument and decided the current law provided the right balance between the freedoms needed to manage a company and requirements on “protecting the health and rest” of workers.

The ruling came amid fierce debate, beginning in September, over whether to relax laws banning late night and Sunday openings. Advocates of late hours’ and Sundays’ work say tourists leave for London to buy goods that means French economy is losing both jobs and trade profits that are vital for economic growth.

The ruling was blasted by France’s bosses’ union as “absurd” and “symptomatic of the type of blockage that has brought this country to the (depressed economic) state in which it now finds itself”. Sephora, in turn, said it would appeal the ruling.