On May 4, 2012, the Constitutional Council decided to repeal the provisions of the French Criminal Code related to the criminal offense of sexual harassment (article 222-33) for being too vague. This decision left the victims of sexual harassment without legal protection pending a new act.

French Parliament passed a new act dated August 6, 2012 (hereafter the “Act”), which:  

  • defines sexual harassment as imposing on someone sexually connoted words or actions, in a repeated way, affecting either the dignity of the person, because of their degrading or humiliating nature, or putting him or her in an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation;
  • states that, using, even on a non-repeated-way basis, all kinds of pressure, in order to obtain an act of sexual nature, for the benefit of either the perpetrator or another person, is considered as sexual harassment (new article 222-33 of the French Criminal Code).

Moreover, pursuant to the Act, sexual harassment is punishable:

  • by up to two years of imprisonment and a fine of €30,000 (€150,000 for companies);
  • by up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of €45,000 (€225,000 for companies), in case of aggravating circumstances (like sexually harassing a minor under 15 years old or a person who is physically disabled or ill).  

In addition, the Act creates:

  • new rules in order to prevent acts of sexual harassment, e.g.. the obligation binding on the employer to display, in the place or on the door of the place where the employees are hired and in the place where employees perform their activities, the French Criminal Code provisions related to sexual harassment;
  • the discrimination offense based on the fact that the person concerned was treated differently because she or he had been sexually harassed, had refused to be victim of acts of sexual harassment or had decided to testify concerning these facts, punished by up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of €45,000 (€225,000 for companies).

Since August 8, 2012, French employers must comply with these new provisions and should modify their Internal Regulation in order to include the provisions of the Criminal Code related to sexual harassment.