Recent case-law on harassment in the workplace

The absence of harassment does not imply compliance with the employer’s security obligation

In the event of a lawsuit for moral or sexual harassment, the French courts may judge the absence of sexual or moral harassment. However, this does not mean that the employer necessarily complied with its obligation of security towards the employee claiming to be a victim of harassment.

Based on a recent case-law (Cass.soc. July 8th, 2020, n°18-24 320), the obligation to prevent professional risks is distinct from and should not be confused with the prohibition of moral or sexual harassment. Consequently, the absence of harassment does not prove that the employer complied with its obligation of security.

As a result, an employer may not be considered guilty of harassment but could be sentenced for non-compliance with its obligation of security. Similarly, the guilt of harassment does not imply a sentence for non-compliance with the security obligation.  

Based on previous case-law, it is conceded that the employer complies with its obligation to protect employees’ health if it is proven that:

  • the employer took all necessary preventive actions provided by the Labor code (i.e. preventive risks actions, training and information of employees, implementation of an organization and adapted means), while complying with the general principles of prevention.
  • the employer took all immediate actions to stop the harassment from when the company was informed of the existence of facts which could constitute moral or sexual harassment. 

Should you have any questions, or should you need assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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