Under French law, harassment is defined by the French Penal Code and the French Labor Code. The harassment can be moral or sexual (in French “harcèlement moral” or “harcèlement sexuel”).
Sexual harassment consists of repeated comments or behavior with a sexual connotation which either undermines someone’s dignity due to its degrading or humiliating nature, or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive situation for them.
Sexual harassment is also constituted when:
- the same employee is subjected to such comments or behavior by several persons, in a concerted manner or at the instigation of one of them, even though each of these persons has not acted repeatedly;
- the same employee is subjected to such comments or behavior, successively, by several persons who, even in the absence of concerted action, know that these comments or behavior constitute repetition.
Sexual harassment can also be any form of serious pressure, even if not repeated, exercised with the real or apparent aim of obtaining an act of a sexual nature, whether this is sought for the benefit of the perpetrator or for a third party (Article L.1153-1 of the Labour Code).
Moral harassment consists of repeated acts of moral harassment, the purpose or effect of which is to worsen working conditions likely to infringe on someone’s rights and dignity, to alter their physical or mental health or to compromise their professional future. Harassment may be perpetrated by the employer, a superior or any colleague.
An employee who harasses another could be liable to disciplinary action and could also be prosecuted in the criminal courts.
The employer could also have liability towards the victim, due to its obligation to protect the health and safety of its employees.
We will see in further articles over the next few weeks how to deal with this type of behavior.