Mobbing is often referred to as moral or psychological harassment. It comes from the verb "to mob" which means to assault, to attack. In the workplace, it manifests itself through the destabilization and marginalization of an employee through hostile acts by his/her colleagues, his/her superior or his/her boss.

Frequency and duration

In order to be considered as mobbing, it must have lasted for a certain period of time and the hostile actions must have been repeated with a certain frequency. There is no mobbing when it consists in a temporary conflict situation or a bad atmosphere at work.

It is sometimes difficult to distinguish mobbing from a simple tense or conflictual situation at work. How should the situation of a superior who regularly gives his employee reprimands that are sometimes hurtful in form but justified in substance be managed ?

Medical certificate

During serious work conflicts, the employee is sometimes unable to work. The medical certificate sometimes states that the employee can no longer come to work because of mobbing at the workplace. Is this medical certificate sufficient to prove that psychological harassment actually occurred?


The employer must protect the psychological health of his employees. He must prevent and put an end to situations of psychological harassment within the company. He is required to put in place a directive aimed at fighting against psychological harassment.

A procedure must be put in place when a mobbing situation arises. The employer must designate a trustworthy person competent to receive complaints from employees. This person must meet certain requirements in terms of independence, neutrality and confidentiality.

Social networks

The employer is obliged to prevent and put an end to mobbing situations in the workplace. However, due to the advancement of technology, these situations sometimes move online, on social networks. What is the employer's responsibility in such situations?

Civil liability

The employer is liable when he/she does not take all reasonable measures to put an end to mobbing situations. The bill can be high, especially if the employee is unable to work because of the mobbing or if the employer terminates the employee’s contract.

In addition to possible compensation for wrongful termination, the employee can claim compensation for moral damages in particularly serious cases. However, in order to justify such compensation, the violation of the employee's personality must be particularly important and severe.

What happens when there is a conflict in the workplace but this tense situation does not formally constitute mobbing?

Criminal liability

In addition to constituting mobbing, certain behaviors can be criminal offenses, particularly in the case of defamation. The employee may, under certain conditions, file a complaint against the perpetrator of the harassment.


Faced with a situation of mobbing, the employer is sometimes tempted to dismiss the person being harassed. There are many reasons for this: the desire to avoid having to take other, sometimes tedious, measures, dismissal following a long period of inability to work...

Such a dismissal is extremely risky. In most cases, it will be qualified as wrongful.


The psychological state of a victim of mobbing can deteriorate and lead to a burnout. The employee is no longer able to meet his or her obligations and perform his or her duties properly. The incapacity to work is never far away.

Can the employer dismiss him in such a case? The dismissal will be wrongful when the employer must be held responsible for the employee's inability to work.


In order to encourage the employee to assert his or her rights, the legislator has provided protection against so-called reprisal leaves. An employer who dismisses an employee who asks him to take action against the perpetrators of mobbing risks a lot. What happens when, in the end, it is not qualified as psychological harassment?

Termination at an inopportune juncture

Is an employee who is unable to work for a limited period of time protected against termination at an inopportune juncture? No, the Federal Court has decided!

However, this situation must be handled with extreme caution. If the employer has not taken the necessary measures to prevent or stop the mobbing, he will have to pay a compensation that can amount to several months of salary. 

Top Articles

1 Mar, 2010 byMarianne Favre Moreillon