French Baker Fined $3,700 for Working Too Much

A man carries a cart full of baguettes as a sign reads 'French traditionnal baguette' during Europain 2014, a World Bakery, Patisserie and Catering exhibition held in Villepinte, north of Paris, on March 9, 2014. AFP PHOTO / PIERRE ANDRIEU (Photo credit should read PIERRE ANDRIEU/AFP/Getty Images)

French authorities have fined a bread baker €3,000 ($3,700) for keeping his bakery open seven days a week, when the laws stipulate a mandatory day off.

Cédric Vaivre, who plies his trade as a baker in the small town of Lusigny-sur-Barse in north-central France, was found to have kept his bakery open every day during the summer of 2017 and now must pay a substantial penalty for having been overly industrious.

Local regulations in the region of Aube, where the bakery is situated, limit the number of days per week that a retail establishment can remain open to a maximum of 6 days. The laws, which date back to 1994 and 2000, do not mandate that business owners take Sunday off as a day of rest in the manner of traditional “blue laws,” but rather forbid businesses from remaining open every day.

For several years, Mr. Vaivre had been granted an exemption to the law, allowing him to remain open seven days a week. After 2016, however, his status was not renewed.

During the summer, the small town of 2,000 inhabitants attracts many tourists on the road to the lakes of the Orient Forest, located in the heart of a regional park. It is during these summer months that local businesses make most of their yearly income, which also allows them to keep open in months where business wanes.

Vaivre said he stayed open every day in July and August of 2017 in order to take advantage of the busy season, which would allow him to bring in sufficient revenue to make it until the end of the year.

Local residents rushed to the defense of their baker, going so far as to start a petition drive to have the charges dropped, which has already garnered over 400 signatures.

“When I saw this in the newspaper, I found it very strange,” said one local, a client of the bakery. “I said to myself that it is not normal. I find it unfair.”

Another denizen of Lusigny-sur-Barse, who helped circulate the petition in support of the baker, said it is important to fight “so we do not kill our businesses.”

Even the town mayor joined in the fracas, also in support of the local businessman.

“In a tourist area, it seems essential that businesses can stay open every day during the summer,” said Christian Branle, the mayor of Lusigny. “There is nothing worse than closed shops when there are tourists.”

“You have to have some common sense,” the mayor added. “You’re in a small rural community, in an area where there is not a lot of competition. Let people work while there are visitors expecting this service.”

For his part, Mr. Vaivre has decided to withhold payment of the fine for the moment in the hope that the petition drive will result in cancellation of the penalty, or at least its reduction.

This isn’t the first time that France’s strict rules governing shops’ opening hours have resulted in criminal proceedings.

In 2015, four bakers in southwest France similarly ran afoul of the law by working more days than was permitted, each of whom was fined €500.

“We are business owners who are disgusted to be in France,” baker Stephane Moreau said at the time. “We are going to work less and therefore pay less VAT and less payroll taxes and if necessary we will lay off staff.”

Another of the convicted bakers lamented that he had earned a criminal record “just for baking bread.”

“Tomorrow I will have to lay people off,” he said.

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