It was hard indeed to choose a title for this clip, which is part 1 of 2.
A recent article in French mainstream news discussed "psychopathic behavior in the workplace." If I understood it correctly, it's definitely on the increase here in France, and something like 30% of employees could be characterized as engaging in psychopathic behavior. I'm not too surprised. The article went on to say that this is unfortunate not only because it usually brings illegality into the picture, and at the very least it is highly unpleasant to have to put up with, but that it's not cost-effective for employers and for society. They, employers, are tending to choose psychos as employees, however, encouraging their bad behavior, and not facing that it's "bad for the bottom line."
Here in France, it's hard to prove, and even if you have proof, it's hard to prosecute, you won't gain much or win much, and it could very well have you blacklisted from your profession. It's happened to me -- I know. Well, I didn't much care for being a paralegal here or in the United States, anyway, but really, going through all that years and years ago here was just dreadful.
If your employer in France has any problems with your work, they must notify you very quickly, in writing, and send it to you via registered mail. You have 15 days to pick up the letter, then you have 15 days to respond in writing, via registered mail. A meeting will then take place, and you will likely have the right to have a union official or other coworker present. If you work for the French Republic, however, in, for example, a teaching job, these rules may not apply -- you'll have to check. Regular labor courts, the "Prud'Hommes," might also not apply in that case. You'll have to know this if you are, for example, a visiting professor for a university here in France. Be prepared.
Do not expect any witnesses to any harrassment or mistreatment to stick up for you, testify on your behalf, etc. here. For any verbal complaints about your work, ask for them to notify you correctly, in writing, as noted above. If you are "mis à pied," shown the door, again you must be informed of this in writing, you have the right to respond, etc. Generally, unless you have committed a criminal offense such as hitting someone or destroying something, for which they should call the police or fire department, do not yield to verbal intimidation. Stay calm. If need be, feign illness, ask them to call the fire department for an ambulance immediately, go to an emergency room, fill out a police report, etc. If you are accused of theft, they cannot wait a month or two and then accuse you. They must close their books and verify their property each month -- it's their responsibility. (Be honest at work, please -- do not steal, make trouble, etc. -- it is not worth it.)
If a coworker hits you, you should call the police or authorities immediately, report the crime, sue that coworker, and sue the employer for allowing that to happen. This is not a litigious country and any awards paid are minute, but you must do this. I had a coworker then a boss lung at me and threaten to hit me on two occasions, but they did not touch me. I had a coworker spit on me here -- he was yelling at me and it may have been an accident -- but I should have reported it. Bodily fluids and all that.
They claim there is a system to help harrassed workers here in France, but I haven't found that to be the case. There is a system, all right, but it doesn't work -- the subsidized lawyers collect their fees, drop you, lose your dossiers, etc. Complaining to the "batônnier" is not likely to get results. Remember, the labor court judges have salaries paid by the employers. Remember, the industrial doctors are required to report anything they learn about your health to the employer -- this is different from normal French medical privacy/secrecy. Don't give them a urine sample. Don't submit to a blood test. Don't tell them a thing. That's my advice.
As long as you really haven't done anything wrong, it will likely come to naught. Continue to ask for guidance. Keep copies of everything. They will not. Usually, two strikes and you're out. Collect unemployment. Quitting is not a good idea -- you will lose your social benefits (if any). Learn the rules, follow the rules, and be smart. You're not in Kansas anymore.
copyright 2013 Lisa B. Falour, B.S., M.B.A. all rights reserved
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