Harassment and suffering at work

Through recent case law, the French Supreme Court recalled to employers their obligations in a situation of harassment or sufferance.

According to judicial decisions, the employer can be exempt from its duty of care in terms of the protection of the health and safety of the employees on the double condition that:

  • On the one hand, it takes all necessary preventive measures upstream (such as: adopting a charter, implementing an alert procedure);
  • On the other hand, once informed of facts that are likely to constitute a situation of harassment, it must justify having taken immediate measures to stop the situation (such as: internal investigation, mediation between the parties.

These two conditions are cumulative, so in that respect, the simple fact of intervening, even without delay, is insufficient.

The French Supreme Court Supreme dealt with several concrete situations, notably in the year 2017, that led the Court to lay down the following principles:

  • The employer must not let a harming work atmosphere settle in;
  • The employer must not support defective management methods by allowing them to persist, without reacting
  • In order to be exonerated from its liability, the employer that reacts to a situation of moral harassment must justify the efficiency of its measures.