France’s Workplace Bullying Law

French employment attorney Claire Stievenard provides a very helpful commentary on France’s workplace bullying law in Workforce Management Online.  Here’s an abstract:

France is in the vanguard of addressing the issue of bullying in the workplace, but the European Union supports the movement and other national regimes are close behind. As more companies go global, human resources and other executives should at least become aware of the phenomenon, and France’s particular take on what constitutes bullying. If you have employees in that nation, it will become hard to avoid.

Hopefully articles like this will help to sensitize American readers to the fact that workplace bullying protections are not novel or radical when viewed from a global context.

To access the article you’ll need to register, but it’s well worth the effort, as the Workforce Management website is a rich source of information on human resources and employment relations.

5 responses

  1. Hi David,

    After reading the entire article, I would have liked to hear your take on the actual French Law because it seems at odds with your own Healthy Workplace Bill. Unlike the French, your legislation seems to advocate more for the the employer than the victim by forcing victims to meet and prove high standards of abuse by including Malice and health impacts as well as a very limiting $25,000 cap. While the employer is protected if they have a bullying policy in place. Your thoughts?

    • Beverly,

      There are a couple of misconceptions about the Healthy Workplace Bill in your comment/question, so I’ll try to clarify those points while also responding to your concerns.

      First, the $25k cap applies ONLY to emotional distress damages in situations where there has been no negative employment decision (such as discipline, discharge, pay cut, etc.). Even in such situations, all other damages, including lost pay, medical expenses, attorney’s fees, etc., could be awarded. The main purposes of this provision are not to advocate for employers, but rather (1) to encourage employers to address bullying situations before they elevate; and (2) to discourage the avalanche of nuisance lawsuits that surely would arise without a cap. In any event, in the typical severe bullying situation where the worker suffers a negative employment decision (especially a termination, forced resignation, or some type of demotion), the cap would not apply.

      Second, the requirement of showing malice is consistent with what we know about workplace bullying, i.e., the desire that a target suffer harm (psychological, physical, and/or economic) is a key distinguishing characteristic between bullying and incivility.

      Third, employers are not insulated from liability merely by having a policy in place. If they don’t follow their policy, or if the employee suffers a negative employment decision as part of the bullying, that presence of a policy does not shield them from liability. In any event, it makes sense to create legal incentives for employers to act responsively and preventively.

      Finally, for reasons that would take a short primer to explain, the French legal system is fundamentally different than the American one. France is a civil code system, America is a common law system (more like Britain). France’s employment law system is vastly different from the U.S., and simply copying the French approach to bullying would not be workable for the U.S. — it would be like grafting a slice of an apple into an orange. 🙂

      I hope this explanation is helpful!

  2. Thanks for the quick and, as always, insightful response. I am fully aware that the cap is for emotional distress and I appreciate that you are open to having an open conversation that discusses its content rather than merely promoting it. The idea to remove the cap was put forward by several legislators who feel it is not in the victims best interest and is pre-negotiating for the employer. Some states, Connecticut included, won’t even allow a cap. Unless the purpose is to be consistent with Tort reform. Enjoy the holiday!

  3. It is really nice to see the French government and more countries take this issue very seriously. Not every country should take up on this but every single company should practice it too.

    Great article.

    Tal

  4. Pingback: Global news about workplace bullying and the law — suicides of French Telecom workers — April 2010 « Minding the Workplace

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