France bans sexist comments at work

All work-related rules in France are governed by the French Labour Code (Code du Travail), an extremely detailed body of law that provides regulations from eating a sandwich at your desk to working hours and holiday. As part of a new law on work wellbeing, the Labour Code was amended on 2 August 2021. The amendment entered into force on 31 March 2022 and now includes an expanded definition of what constitutes sexual harassment or sexist behaviour at the workplace.

The definition of sexual harassment in the Labour Code is now extended to:

  • comments and behaviour with a sexist connotation.
  • comments and behaviour with sexual or sexist connotations by several persons, in a concerted manner or at the instigation of one of them, even though each of these persons has not acted in a repeated manner.
  • to such statements or behaviour, successively, by several persons who, even in the absence of concerted action, know that such statements or behaviour constitute a repetition.

Contrary to the French Penal Code, this new definition does not include an intentional element to constitute sexual harassment. Therefore, sexual harassment at work is constituted when it is suffered by the employee and not when it is imposed by the perpetrator(s).

To comply with the new law, employers must now update their internal guidance to reflect the changes. It is recommended that employers also offer training on what constitutes sexual harassment and ensure that there is a sexual harassment delegate on employee committees as the French authorities advise.

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