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Sexual Harassment

Verified 15 July 2022 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

If you are a victim of sexual harassment, you can file a complaint against the alleged perpetrator, as this is offence punishable by law. If the events occurred at work, you may receive specific protection from your employer and the authorities.

General case

Sexual harassment is characterised by imposing on a person, repeatedly, sexual or sexist remarks or behaviour which:

  • violate his dignity by reason of their degrading or humiliating character,
  • or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation.

Sexual harassment includes any form of serious (even unrepeated) pressure for the real or apparent purpose of obtaining a sexual act, for the benefit of the perpetrator or a third party.

In both cases, sexual harassment is punished regardless of the links between the author and his victim (harassment by a relative, a neighbour....).

If the perpetrator had physical contact with the victim, it could be sexual assault, which is a more severe offence than sexual harassment.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment and your situation requires urgent intervention by law enforcement, you can alert the police or the gendarmerie.

In case of emergency, and only in this situation, it is possible to alert the police or the gendarmerie by phone call, or by SMS, if you are unable to speak.

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Phone

In case of emergency, when rapid response is required, you can call the emergency police. Dial 17.

You can also contact 112.

Who shall I contact

You can't call

The 114 is the emergency call relay service if you are unable to speak on the phone (deaf, hard of hearing ...) or if it could put you in danger.

Who shall I contact

You file before the criminal justice system against the alleged perpetrator of sexual harassment.

The complaint must be filed within 6 years after the last act (a gesture, a statement...).

The justice system will take into account all elements of harassment even if the events took place over several years.

On site

You must contact a police station or police brigade of your choice.

Who shall I contact

You cannot be denied receipt of the complaint.

The complaint is then transmitted to the public prosecutor by the police or the gendarmerie.

By mail

You can file a complaint with the public prosecutor.

We need to send free paper letter the court of the place of the offence or the place of domicile of the offender.

Who shall I contact

The letter shall specify:

  • Your marital status and complete contact information (address and telephone number)
  • Detailed account of the facts, date and place of the offence
  • Supposed author's name if you know him (otherwise, the complaint will be filed against X)
  • Names and addresses of potential witnesses to the offence
  • Description and provisional or final estimate of the injury
  • Evidence: medical certificates, work stoppages, various invoices, findings ...
  • Willingness to become a civil party

File a complaint with the public prosecutor

You can send your complaint by registered letter with acknowledgement, by single letter or by letter followed.

You can also file your complaint directly at the court reception.

In all cases, a receipt is given to you as soon as the public prosecutor's office has registered your complaint.

If the complaint is closed without further action, and you wish to proceed further, you may file a filing of complaint.

You can get legal assistance.

Who shall I contact

Since sex is one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination by law, you can also enter the Advocate of Rights.

Who shall I contact

Sexual harassment is an offence punishable by

  • 2 years imprisonment
  • and €30,000 fine.

These sentences can be increased to 3 years imprisonment and €45,000 fine, where the acts are committed by or on the following persons:

  • By a person who abuses the authority conferred upon him by his duties
  • On a minor under 15
  • On a person whose particular vulnerability, due to age, illness, infirmity, physical or mental impairment or pregnancy, is apparent or known to the author
  • On a person whose particular vulnerability or dependency resulting from the precariousness of his economic or social situation is apparent or known to the author
  • By several persons acting as an author or accomplice
  • Through the use of an online communication service to the public or through digital or electronic media
  • While a minor was present and attended
  • By an ascendant or by any other person with legal or de facto authority over the victim

Sexual harassment offenders may also be ordered to pay damages to his victim.

Work

Sexual harassment is characterised by imposing on a person, repeatedly, sexual or sexist remarks or behaviour, which

  • violate his dignity by reason of their degrading or humiliating nature
  • or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation.

Sexual harassment also occurs when such comments or behaviour are imposed on a worker by several persons, in a concerted manner or at the instigation of one of them, even if each of these persons has not acted repeatedly.

The same applies when the words or behaviour are imposed on a worker, successively, by several people who, even in the absence of consultation, know that these words or behaviour characterise a repetition.

Furthermore, the act of exerting severe pressure on a worker for the purpose (real or apparent) of obtaining a sexual act is also equated with sexual harassment, even if there is no repetition.

In the professional environment, sexual harassment can occur even if there is no hierarchical relationship between the victim and the perpetrator (between colleagues of the same level, different services...)

If the perpetrator has had physical contact with the victim, this is sexual assault, which is more severely punished.

FYI  

when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace, the intentional element is not necessary, unlike sexual harassment outside the workplace.

If you are a victim of sexual harassment and your situation requires urgent intervention by law enforcement, you can alert the police or the gendarmerie.

In case of emergency, and only in this situation, it is possible to alert the police or the gendarmerie by phone call, or by SMS, if you are unable to speak.

Répondez aux questions successives et les réponses s’afficheront automatiquement

Phone

In case of emergency, when rapid response is required, you can call the emergency police. Dial 17.

You can also contact 112.

Who shall I contact

You can't call

The 114 is the emergency call relay service if you are unable to speak on the phone (deaf, hard of hearing ...) or if it could put you in danger.

Who shall I contact

Répondez aux questions successives et les réponses s’afficheront automatiquement

In the private sector

If you are a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, you can report the incident to staff representatives and the Social and Economic Committee.

You can't be punished for reporting these facts. There is an exception if the denunciation is based on imaginary facts.

In the Public Service

You can use the system to report acts of violence, discrimination, moral or sexual harassment and gender-based behaviour in the public service. It provides for appropriate procedures to collect reports and direct the officer who claims to be a victim or witness.

The Head of Service shall inform the officer under his authority of the existence of the reporting device, of its mode of use. and the procedures it provides.

The device must guarantee the strict confidentiality of the information transmitted by the victim or witness when processing the alert.

In both the private and public sectors, the employer has an obligation to take all necessary measures to prevent sexual harassment.

Information for workers

The employer must inform workers of the texts that criminalise sexual harassment.

It should include these texts in the rules and regulations and give concrete examples of acts constituting sexual harassment.

Implementation of preventive actions

The employer must take measures to prevent sexual harassment and sexism.

This includes raising awareness and training of workers about sexual and gender-based harassment.

The employer can rely on the Occupational Health and Prevention Service (OHCPS). This service replaces from 1to April 2022 Occupational Health Service (OHS).

The main tasks of the SPST are the assessment and prevention of occupational risks and the implementation of health promotion measures in the workplace.

Thus, each SPST must include the following actions in its programme:

  • Prevention of occupational risks, including strengthened advice and guidance to companies in the development of their single professional risk assessment document
  • Conduct of measures to prevent risks to workers' health
  • Individual monitoring of the health status of each employee throughout their activity, through the implementation of all medical monitoring and visits provided for by the regulations
  • Prevention of job disintegration, by setting up and setting up an operational unit to accompany employees who are at risk of leaving the job due to their health

Training of workers' representatives

The employer is obliged to finance the training of workers' representatives.

Thus, elected members of the Social and Economic Committee (SCE) must undergo a minimum of 5 days of training in health, safety and working conditions.

In case of renewal of their mandate, they must benefit from 3 additional days of training.

Members of the Health, Safety and Working Conditions Committee (CSSCT) receive an additional 5 days of training.

As of March 31, 2022, the employer cannot develop the single Occupational Risk Assessment (PDR.) document on its own.

It is obliged to involve the health referees at work, the SPST and the members of the SSC in the preparation of the document.

The Duerp must now be kept for at least 40 years.

Worker Health Monitoring

As a victim of sexual harassment at work, you can also benefit from the occupational health measures that employers are obliged to put in place.

Thus, since March 31, 2022, you can benefit from remote medical visits, provided that the device used respects the confidentiality of the exchanges.

You can also benefit if you are in the conditions, the new mid-career medical visit which must be offered to workers within 2 years of their 45th birthday. This medical examination is intended to detect the risk of professional disintegration

Finally, if you have a work stoppage of more than 30 days, you can benefit from binding appointmentin the presence of the Prevention and Health at Work Service.

This appointment is not a medical visit, it is intended to inform you that you can benefit from the following devices:

  • Work Disintegration Prevention Actions
  • Pre-Recovery Visit
  • Individual measures for the development, adaptation or transformation of the workstation

Against the perpetrator

If you are a victim of sexual harassment at work, you can bring the alleged perpetrator(s) to criminal justice.

The complaint must be filed within 6 years of the last act (gesture, speech...) of harassment.

The justice system will take into account all elements of harassment even if the events took place over several years.

On site

You must contact a police station or police brigade of your choice.

Who shall I contact

You cannot be denied receipt of the complaint.

The complaint is then transmitted to the public prosecutor by the police or the gendarmerie.

By mail

You can file a complaint with the public prosecutor.

We need to send free paper letter the court of the place of the offence or the place of domicile of the offender.

Who shall I contact

The letter shall specify:

  • Your marital status and complete contact information (address and telephone number)
  • Detailed account of the facts, date and place of the offence
  • Supposed author's name if you know him (otherwise, the complaint will be filed against X)
  • Names and addresses of potential witnesses to the offence
  • Description and provisional or final estimate of the injury
  • Evidence: medical certificates, work stoppages, various invoices, findings ...
  • Willingness to become a civil party

File a complaint with the public prosecutor

You can send your complaint by registered letter with acknowledgement, by single letter or by letter followed.

You can also file your complaint directly at the court reception.

In all cases, a receipt is given to you as soon as the public prosecutor's office has registered your complaint.

If the complaint is closed without further action, and you wish to proceed further, you may file a filing of complaint.

You can get legal assistance.

Who shall I contact

Against the employer

The employer must take all necessary measures to prevent acts constituting sexual harassment. If he or she has not complied with his or her legal obligations to prevent, you can sue him or her for compensation.

The procedure for claiming compensation from the employer may be initiated in parallel with the lodging of a complaint against the alleged perpetrator of sexual harassment:

As a victim, you do not have to inform your employer of the complaint against the alleged harasser.

This procedure may continue at the same time as the claim against the employer.

These 2 actions can target different people.

Example :

You can sue the CEO of your company for compensation in the criminal courts, and your chief of staff, the perpetrator, for criminal proceedings.

Your employer will then be judged for not protecting you sufficiently.

The employer will have to demonstrate that the facts presented by you do not constitute sexual harassment.

Persons who denounce or combat sexual harassment cannot be punished or dismissed.

Please note

in a company, any representative trade union organisation may, with the written consent of the harassed person, take legal action in its place.

Advocate

Since sex is one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination by law, and work is one of the situations in which discrimination is sanctioned, you can also refer the matter to the Ombudsman. This applies both to the perpetrator and to the employer.

Who shall I contact

Sexual Harassment is offence punishable by up to 

  • 2 years in prison
  • and €30,000 fine

In the event of abuse of authority (by a hierarchical superior, for example), the penalties may include:

  • 3 years in prison
  • and €45,000 fine

These aggravated penalties also apply when sexual harassment has occurred in one of the following situations:

  • On a person whose particular vulnerability due to illness, infirmity, physical or mental impairment or pregnancy is apparent or known to the author
  • On a person whose particular vulnerability or dependency resulting from the precariousness of his economic or social situation is apparent or known to the author
  • By several persons acting as an author or accomplice

Sexual harassment offenders may also be ordered to pay damages to his victim, to compensate him for his injury.

In addition, any private sector employee who has engaged in sexual harassment is liable disciplinary sanctions.

The same applies to any public official responsible for the same acts, according to public sector penalty procedures.

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