Case-law that speaks volumes
The performance obligation
A company convicted of “management bullying”
- In 2005, a journalist brought a case their employer for breach of employment contract, unjustified refusals of transfer and offering positions below their skills level. The company will be convicted of “management bullying”, having generated stress. This will be one of the first convictions on such grounds of company organisation.
Companies convicted of “institutional bullying”
- In 2011, a court of appeal convicted a company for “gross negligence” after the suicide of an employee. The case found that the organisation of work imposed changes on employees for which they were neither prepared nor supported.
…but also convicted of “psychological bullying” due to a mismatch of skills
- In 2011, a court of appeal ordered a consular organisation to pay compensation to an employee for not having entrusted them with duties commensurate with their qualifications.
Psychological bullying by a “third party outside the company”
- In 2011, the court of cassation broadened companies’ responsibility by considering an external party as a potential originator of bullying or harassment. The company was convicted of psychological bullying because it did not protect an employee who was a victim of pressure originating from a subcontractor.
- In 2008, the court of cassation prevented a company from setting up a new organisation of work that threatened the health of employees and therefore their quality of life at work.
- In 2013, a court of appeal suspended a restructuring operation on the grounds that the company had failed to evaluate transfers of responsibility from abolished posts to employees remaining in post. The psychosocial risk was thus proven.
The burden of proof to the contrary lies with the employer
- The court of cassation requires that the employee establishes clear and corroborating facts that may point to psychological bullying or harassment: bans from entering offices, non payment of professional fees and wages, deliberate isolation or deprivation of resources (documentation, desk, working tools), refusal of mediation at work or stress management initiatives etc.
- It therefore falls to the employer to prove that such actions are justified by objective elements that do not involve any bullying or harassment (cassation, social division, 15th January 2014, criminal division, 19th January 2014).