In May this year, the constitutional council decided that the definition of the offence of sexual harassment was not precise enough and was consequently contrary to the constitution.  After a brief legal vacuum, a new law on sexual harassment was voted in on 6 August 2012.  Two types of conduct can now be regarded as sexual harassment:

  • "sexual harassment by repeated acts" - an individual can be guilty of sexual harassment if he/she repeatedly demonstrates behaviour or verbal conduct of a sexual nature that harms the dignity of a person because of its humiliating or degrading nature, or because it creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation
  • any serious pressure committed with the aim of obtaining an act of a sexual nature.  In other words, a form of sexual blackmail.

A person convicted of sexual harassment can receive two years' imprisonment and a fine of €30,000.  In aggravating circumstances (for example, if the acts are committed by a person who takes advantage of their authority as part of their functions), the sanctions are greater.

The text of the Penal Code relating to the new harassment laws must be displayed in the workplace and the text relating to the first type of harassment must also be posted in the entrance to the workplace.

It is worth noting that, under French law, the employer is subject to what is known as "une obligation de sécurité de résultat" (a duty to achieve results for the safety of the employees).  As a result of this obligation, the employer will be held responsible if one of its employees is a victim of harassment.