Persistent conflict between employees: the employer must react
A decision of the Court of Cassation of 22 June 2017 should encourage employers to be particularly vigilant when there is a situation of conflict between employees.
In this case, an employee had developed an anxiety-depressive syndrome and attributed the responsibility to her employer, who had not taken, according to her, the necessary measures to put an end to the conflict with her colleague.
She considered that the employer had breached its security obligation.
Article L4121-1 of the Labor Code specifies that ” the employer takes the necessary measures to ensure the safety and protect the physical and mental health of workers “.
What was it ?
A doctor in an association, the employee alleged the harassment she was undergoing from a colleague who was also a doctor: she criticized him for putting her away and for having behaved inappropriately towards her, at the origin of the deterioration of his state of health.
Declared incapacitated by the occupational physician in a single medical examination – on the grounds of “immediate danger” to her health – the employee was dismissed because of this incapacity and the impossibility for the employer to reclassify her; she then appealed to the industrial tribunal of an application for the judicial termination of her employment contract at the expense of the employer.
The judges granted her request and pronounced the termination of the contract, after noting that the employee’s employment relationship with her colleague had caused the complainant significant moral suffering that played a decisive role in the deterioration of her condition. health.
However, the employer was not inactive in this situation: informed of the difficulties the employee was having with his colleague, he had immediately invited her to make an appointment with occupational medicine; he had organized a meeting attended by the employee as well as the other 3 doctors of the association and during which proposals for modification of the organization of work had been made. The employer had also set up the following month a medical coordinator elected by his peers to resolve any difficulties within the staff and a weekly medical staff; he had modified the organization of work in pairs with the agreement of the two employees; the employer had also exchanged numerous letters with the occupational doctor to keep him informed of the measures put in place and had requested his intervention by inviting him to meet the medical team, which the latter had refrained from doing, considering that there was no “solution to the crisis” given the attitude adopted by the complainant employee; the employer had then received the employee during a new interview during which was mentioned, given his refusal of any contact with the other employee, the possibility of his assignment to another site; the employer had finally responded to each letter of the employee by which it challenged the action of his employer, until the latter who had been off work for three years, is declared unfit by the doctor of the job.
However, the judges found that the employer had not taken all the necessary measures to settle impartially by mediating the persistent conflict between them and thus allow the employee to return to her job or, failing that, to separate the two employees. protagonists, proposing to the employee, without waiting for the end of her work stoppage for illness, either a change of office as recommended by the occupational physician, or a position available in another nearby center. The employer was also criticized for having left unanswered a letter from the employee asking her about her professional prospects within the association.
In other words, all the measures taken by the employer were considered insufficient by the Court of Cassation, which accuses it of not having personally involved, “by its mediation”, in the conflict, and thus to have breach of its obligation of security, making it impossible to continue contractual relations.
This decision recalls that the employer is at the center of the game: it is he who has the power of direction, and it is therefore he who must make decisions in the face of a conflict situation, reacting quickly so as not to leave the This situation persists, since all the measures taken upstream have proved ineffective.