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Thursday, July 26, 2012

New French Law on Sexual Harassment

This week French deputies voted unanimously to adopt a new law against sexual harassment in the Hexagon.

According to Le Figaro:
Le texte voté hier à l'Assemblée décline deux modalités du délit de harcèlement sexuel: par répétition d'actes à connotation sexuelle et par «chantage sexuel», soit le fait, même non répété, «d'user de toute forme de pression grave, dans le but réel ou apparent d'obtenir un acte de nature sexuelle».
(The text voted on yesterday by the Assembly gives two conditions under which criminal sexual harassment can be said to have occurred:  repeated acts of a sexual nature and "sexual blackmail" - any situation (not necessarily habitual or repeated) where extreme pressure is used with the objective (real or apparent) of obtaining an act of a sexual nature.)
What does "par répétition d'actes à connotation sexuelle" mean in concrete terms?  Le Figaro quotes Claude Katz:
L'employé qui raconte régulièrement ses rencontres avec des prostitués, le chef qui pose tous les matins des questions à une salariée sur sa vie intime, le confrère qui fait des réflexions à caractère sexuel sur le physique… Toutes ces situations qui rendent une situation de travail particulièrement délétère rentrent dans le champ du nouveau texte.
(The employee who regularly discusses his meetings with prostitutes, the boss who ask a female employee every morning about the details of her private life, the co-worker who makes comments of a sexual nature concerning her physique...All these situations that make the work environment  uncomfortable/hostile are within the scope of the new law.)
And this kind of behaviour was not illegal before this law was passed?  Or at least regarded as highly unprofessional and sanctioned in some way?   Not really.  Yes, there were other indirect avenues for redress (the unions reps, for example) but nothing to my knowledge that explicitly made it a crime to behave this way or a rule (written or unwritten) with any kind of real consequence for those who, quite frankly, were making real asses of themselves in the workplace.

You can read more about the law here on Vie Publique.

There are already comments on the various articles about this new law where people are asking, "So what's the difference between flirting (la drague) and sexual harassment?  Where do you draw the line?"  Well, I think we are about to find out since there will surely be a number of not so clear cases where the courts will have to make that determination.  The penalties are quite steep (30,000 Euro fine and 2 years in prison) so I suspect that people will err on the side of caution and modify their behaviour tout de suite.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The new law will have positive effects to everyone, especially the previous victims, because their voice can now be heard. As we all know, it’s always been a silent crime, where the victims are most ashamed to make a report due to explicit reasons. But I think the legislations have to be more precise and accurate with the boundaries of this law, because the issue here is highly subjective, especially if it only focuses on the behavior of a potential offender.

Chin Angevine @ Scheiner Law Group, P.C.