The victim's behaviour has no effect on the characterization of moral harassment

Labour Law / Criminal Law

Source: Supreme Court – Criminal Chamber – May 27th 2015, n° 14-81489

In a decision dated May 27th 2015, the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court was questioned on taking into consideration the victim's behaviour in the characterization of moral harassment.

In the present case, a secretary had been the object of public disparagement from her hierarchical superior, who had told her colleagues to keep their distance with her, had installed her on her own in a meeting room, had not given any task to her, had not invited her to any end-of-year event and at last, had refused to adapt her working hours.

However, in this case, the victim had not had a loyal behaviour with her employer, as she had been hired to be a general secretary although she did not have the required skills and had quickly been in a difficult situation. As she did not accept any criticism, she had had relational difficulties to the point that she had even become aggressive towards her colleagues, who had come into depression.

In the first place, the Court of Appeal had considered that the victim herself was the origin of her supervisor's behaviour, so the moral harassment could not be characterized in such situation.

It is not the position of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, who specified that the Court of Appeal should have tried to see whether the alleged acts, which she admitted were not a correct behaviour, exceeded, whatever way the civil party used, the limits of the power of the defendant and characterized a behaviour as per the article 222-33-2 of the Criminal Code.

Therefore, according to the Supreme Court, the victim's behaviour does not matter, and the moral harassment can indeed be characterized from the moment when it is part of the legal definition.