Over the next few weeks, this blog is going to look at the protection workers have in other countries against workplace bullying. Hopefully it will raise questions as to why workers in the UK cannot be afforded the same protection, especially as many researches has shown that workplace bullying is a huge drain on our economy in terms of financial and human costs, already highlighted previously in this blog. The link in this blog is a video of legislation introduced in Ontario in Canada.
Employer’s Liability for Bullying Under recent case law, the French Supreme Court held that an employer’s obligation includes preventing bullying; thus rendering employers liable for the bullying conduct of their employees. This liability is not diminished by the implementation of preventative measures. A French employer may also face civil liability for workplace bullying under French contract law. Under French civil law, all contracts must be performed in good faith and this requirement equally applies to employment contracts. Accordingly, if an employee suffers an adverse employment action related to bullying behavior, that employee may bring a contract claim for wrongful termination. Additionally, if an employee resigns because he was subject to workplace bullying, the employee may argue his resignation amounts to unfair termination on the part of the employer and be awarded compensation.
Damage Awards In a 2012 decision, the French Supreme Court decided that an employee can claim damages on two fronts when he is the victim of bullying : (1) for breach by the employer of his obligation to take measures to prevent bullying in the workplace; and (2) for the acts of bullying themselves. In the 2012 decision, the court awarded a bully-victim employee 5,000 € on the first ground and 25,000 € on the second ground. In the case at hand, the victim suffered from a deleterious climate in a department and intimidations to an extent which led her to go on a sick leave and ultimately be recognized as unfit for work on a permanent basis. If the bully-victim’s employment contract is also terminated as a result of or related to the bullying conduct, the employer may be liable for unfair termination. Damages for unfair termination are often a multiplier of the monthly salary of the employee, which can easily reach twenty-four months of salary continuation. French courts may also award non-pecuniary damages in bullying cases. For example, the court may order the employer to display a unfavorable decision about bullying in the workplace as well as in newspapers (article L.1155-2 of the French labor Code).
No Retaliation in Case ofWhistleblowingor Legal Proceedings
In order to protect the employees and to promote the reporting of bullying, the French Labor Code provides that employees who suffer, refuse to undergo, or report bullying cannot be sanctioned, terminated or discriminated against (art. L. 1152-2 and L. 1152-3 of the French Labor Code). The prohibition of bullying entails all disciplinary measures, including termination of the employment contract, is null and void.
Next week, this blog will look at how Spain deals with workplace bullying.
Support the campaign to introduce legislation to protect workers against workplace bullying in the UK