An employee covered as a victim of a work accident following acts of moral harassment still has the right to seek compensation for the harassment suffered before the French Labour Court

In the case submitted to the French Supreme Court, a manager had made a suicide attempt which was covered by the Social Security as a work accident. He then brought an action before the Social Security Tribunal to hold the employer guilty of an inexcusable fault on the grounds of a moral harassment as a cause to his suicide attempt. In parallel, he claimed damages before the Labour Court for the same acts of moral harassment, on the basis of Article L. 1152-1 of the Labour Code.

The Labour Court ordered that the employer pay damages for moral harassment.

An appeal was filed by the employer before the French Supreme Court which dismissed his appeal, confirming a decision delivered in 2006 (French Supreme Court, November 15, 2006, N° 05-41.489). The Court thus considers that “the legislation on work accidents and occupational diseases does not prevent the award of damages to the employee in compensation for the damage suffered because of the moral harassment of which he was a victim before his work accident was covered by the social security“. The High Court therefore draws a distinction between:

– On the one hand, the damage suffered as a result of moral harassment before the official coverage of the work accident, the compensation for which falls within the jurisdiction of the Labour Court,

– On the other hand, the subsequent damage (i.e. the consequences of the attempted suicide) covered by the social security legislation, the compensation for which falls within the jurisdiction of the Social Security Court.

According to the Court, since the two damages are distinct, they may be compensated cumulatively and the employee was entitled to claim damages before the Labour Court for the moral harassment suffered.

French Supreme Court, September 4, 2019, n°18-17.329