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Moral harassment at work

Verified 31 March 2020 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of Justice

Moral harassment is a crime. It leads to the deterioration of working conditions. He is punished in both the private and public sectors. The law provides for the protection of employees, public officials and trainees.

In the private sector

In the private sector, you have several types of recourse to defend yourself against moral harassment. Your employer has an obligation to take preventive action against such behavior.

Moral harassment is manifested by repeated acts which may lead to a deterioration in the working conditions of the person suffering them, which may lead to:

  • infringement of his rights and dignity,
  • impairment of his physical or mental health,
  • or a threat to his professional development.

If you are a victim of moral harassment, you can benefit from the protection of the law, whether you are an employee, a trainee or an apprentice.

Such acts are prohibited, even if there is no hierarchical link between you and the perpetrator.

Your employer has an obligation to take all necessary measures to prevent moral harassment.

It must inform its employees of the provisions of the Criminal Code against moral harassment, and cooperate with staff representatives and, where applicable, the Social and Economic Committee..

The occupational medicine may also participate in the prevention of moral harassment in the company.

Those who denounce or fight moral harassment cannot be punished on this ground. Sanctions are only allowed if the whistleblower is acting in bad faith, and if the whistle-blower is doing so for the sole purpose of harming, for example on the basis of facts of which he is fully aware that they are not true.

In order to defend yourself, you have the right to use one or more of the following procedures at the same time.

ESC and staff representatives alert

In case of moral harassment, you can warn:

  • staff representatives who can help you in all your steps.
  • or the Economic and Social Committee (ESC), if any, which has the right to alert the employer of any cases of moral harassment.

Labor Inspection Alert

The labor inspector will be able to identify any cases of moral harassment and, if necessary, refer the matter to the court.

Who shall I contact

Mediation

You can also initiate mediation with the perpetrator. The choice of mediator must be agreed between the two parties.

Several professionals offer this type of service. You can check with your employer.

The role of the mediator is to try to reconcile the parties. It shall submit proposals in writing to them with a view to ending harassment: a change of position for the author of the facts for example.

If conciliation fails, the mediator must inform you how to assert your rights in court.

Seize the Prud'men Council

You can enter prud'homme council to obtain compensation for the damage suffered. You must present direct or indirect evidence of this harassment: emails, testimonials...

You have a 5-year delay after the last act of harassment to refer the counsel of prud'homme.

The proceedings will be against your employer, even if he is not the direct perpetrator. In the latter case, your employer will be tried for not protecting you from harassment. He can also be prosecuted for unfair dismissal (if you have reported harassment).

Seize the criminal judge

You can also prosecute the direct perpetrator of the harassment.

This complaint may be in addition to a complaint against your employer in the case of a labor court. For example, you sue your employer in the labor courts, and the perpetrator (colleague, manager, union representative, customer, supplier...) in the criminal justice system.

The victim of moral harassment may file within 6 years from the most recent occurrence of harassment (last comments made, last email...). The court will then take into account all acts of harassment coming from the same author. Even though harassment has been going on for several years.

Please note

any representative union may, with your written consent, bring a legal action in your place. The union acts on your behalf and on your behalf.

Enter Rights Defender

If you believe that moral harassment is motivated by discrimination based on one of the criteria prohibited by law, such as skin color, sex, age or sexual orientation, you may also refer the matter to the Ombudsman.

Who shall I contact

Two types of sanctions can be combined: the penalties imposed by the employer and those imposed by the courts.

Penalty by employer

Any employee who has committed acts of moral harassment shall be liable to disciplinary sanctions taken by the employer: transfer, lay-off or dismissal.

Sanctions taken by the judiciary

Moral harassment is an offense punishable by a fine of up to:

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

In addition, the perpetrator of moral harassment may be ordered to pay you damages (moral damage, medical expenses...)

In the public sector

In the public sector, you have several types of recourse to defend yourself against moral harassment. Your administration has an obligation to put in place a policy to prevent such behavior.

Moral harassment is manifested by repeated acts which may lead to a deterioration in the working conditions of the person suffering them, which may lead to:

  • infringement of his rights and dignity,
  • impairment of his physical or mental health,
  • or a threat to his professional development.

If you are a victim of harassment in the public sector, you can benefit from the protection of the law, whether you are a public servant, a contract worker or a trainee.

Such acts are prohibited, even in the absence of a hierarchical link with the perpetrator.

Your administration has an obligation to take all necessary measures to prevent moral harassment.

She must inform her agents of the provisions of the Criminal Code against moral harassment. It must work with Social and Economic Committee (ESC)..

Those who denounce or fight moral harassment cannot be punished on this ground. Sanctions are only allowed if the whistleblower is acting in bad faith, and if the whistle-blower is doing so for the sole purpose of harming, for example on the basis of facts of which he is fully aware that they are not true.

In order to defend yourself, you have the right to use one or more of the following procedures at the same time.

Report

You can use the system for reporting violence, discrimination, moral or sexual harassment and gender-based activities in the public service. This mechanism must be put in place in each administration by 1to May 2020. It provides for appropriate procedures to collect reports and to guide the officer declaring himself a victim or witness.

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

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

Alert CHSCT and staff representatives

You can also warn:

  • staff representatives will be able to help you in all your steps.
  • or CHSCT, if any. CHSCT has a right of alert to prevent the administration of any case of moral harassment.

Mediation

You can also initiate mediation with the perpetrator. The choice of mediator must be agreed between the two parties.

Several professionals offer this type of service. You can check with your employer.

The role of the mediator is to try to reconcile the parties. It shall submit proposals in writing to them with a view to ending harassment: a change of position for the author of the facts for example.

If conciliation fails, the mediator must inform you how to assert your rights in court.

Seize the administrative court

You can continue your administration before administrative tribunal and seek compensation for your loss. You must present direct or indirect evidence of this harassment: emails, testimonials...

To do this, you must first refer your administration to ask it to act (sanctions against a superior...). Your administration may then be tried, if necessary, for not protecting you from harassment.

If your administration refuses to act or does not respond to you, you can refer the matter to the administrative court. You can also sue your administration if you have been punished for reporting harassment.

You must bring the matter before the court within a certain period, which varies depending on the situation:

  • if the administration has made an explicit decision, you have 2 months after the notification the decision in question (refusal to sanction a superior, penalty for denunciation, etc.) to bring the matter before the court,
  • if the administration has not responded to you within 2 months, you must refer the matter to the administrative court within 4 months after your administration receives your request.

Seize the criminal judge

You can also prosecute the direct perpetrator of the harassment.

This complaint may be in addition to a complaint against your administration. For example, you can sue your administration before the administrative court and the perpetrator in criminal proceedings.

The victim can file within 6 years from the most recent occurrence of harassment (last comments made, last email...). The court will then take into account all acts of harassment coming from the same author. This, even though harassment has been going on for several years.

As a victim, you can benefit from functional protection..

Please note

any representative union may, with your written consent, bring a legal action in your place. The union will act on your behalf and on your behalf.

Enter Rights Defender

If you believe that moral harassment is motivated by discrimination based on one of the criteria prohibited by law, such as skin color, sex, age or sexual orientation, you may also refer the matter to the Ombudsman.

Who shall I contact

Two types of sanctions can be combined: the penalties imposed by the administration and by the courts.

Sanctions taken by the administration

A public official guilty of harassment risks disciplinary sanctions :: automatic removal, cancelation of the progress list, or even revocation...

Sanctions taken by the judiciary

Moral harassment is an offense punishable by up to:

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

In addition, the perpetrator of moral harassment may be ordered to pay you damages (moral damage, medical expenses...)