France: Harassment and Suicide Attempt Were Compensable

By Nicolas Peixoto December 9, 2019
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France: Harassment and Suicide Attempt Were Compensable

​Workplace harassment that precedes a suicide attempt, even if the attempt is judged a compensable work accident, may also be subject to an award of damages by a French labor court.

In this case, the French Amicable Board of Appeal recognized a manager's suicide attempt, made when he was at home, as a work accident.

The employee filed an application with the Social Security Court (TASS) for recognition of the employer's misconduct on the grounds of harassment, which the TASS refused to acknowledge. The Paris Court of Appeal upheld this judgment, and the employee appealed. To date, the French Supreme Court in the Civil Division has not yet ruled in the case about the employer's alleged misconduct.

In the meantime, the employee also brought a claim before a Labor Court for payment of damages for the same harassment. In this second proceeding, the employer argued that the claims made before the two courts were identical, and therefore, the employee could not claim compensation for the same damage before two separate courts.

The Caen Court of Appeal, in the second proceeding, said that a labor court had jurisdiction if the claim for harassment compensation does not correspond to a claim for occupational-accident compensation. The employee had succeeded in proving that he had been subjected to harassment, in this court's view, and the labor court had jurisdiction.

The French Supreme Court in the Labor Division confirmed this position on the ground that the acts of workplace harassment were distinct from the consequence of the suicide attempt recognized as a work accident. The resulting harm from the harassment had to be compensated by the award of damages.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to the Global Human Resources Discipline]

Professional Pointer: The labor court's reasoning may lead to an increase in the damages that employers must pay when there is harassment and a compensable work accident.

Nicolas Peixoto is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Paris.

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