Brèves considérations sur le harcèlement moral

« L’hôpital est à la fois un milieu fermé et un milieu ouvert, avec les frictions, les heurts et parfois les conflits juridiques graves que pareille bipolarité engendre – c’est tapis rouge déroulé pour le H. [comprendre ici le harcèlement] » ((R. Dadoun, Harcèlements, psychologies, pouvoirs, in Gestions hospitalières, cahier 195, déc. 2005, p. 802.)).

Le harcèlement moral est à l’évidence un thème sensible du management hospitalier, à tel point d’ailleurs qu’il a pris, il y a quelques mois déjà, une tournure spectaculaire dans le monde de la fonction publique hospitalière.

Une pénalisation croissante


En effet, 5 responsables du centre hospitalier de Villeneuve Saint Georges (un directeur, deux de ses adjoints, un cadre, un chef de service) ont été placés plus de 30 heures en garde à vue entre les 12 et 15 décembre 2006 dans le cadre d’une enquête préliminaire après 5 plaintes pour harcèlement moral.

Selon l’article 222-33-2 du code pénal, est constitutif de harcèlement moral passible d’un an d’emprisonnement et de 15.000 € d’amende « le fait de harceler autrui par des agissements répétés ayant pour objet ou pour effet une dégradation des conditions de travail susceptible de porter atteinte à ses droits et à sa dignité, d’altérer sa santé physique ou mentale ou de compromettre son avenir professionnel ».

Pour dissuasive qu’elle soit, la menace au recours du dispositif pénal – dont l’utilisation est certainement regrettable – jette une lumière crue sur l’impérieuse nécessité de prévenir ce genre de situation. Loin d’être anodine, l’utilisation de l’arme pénale permet d’effrayer le harceleur, ou prétendu tel, en lui imposant une mesure privative de liberté cependant que le recours au juge administratif, dont les centres hospitaliers sont coutumiers, présente l’avantage de tranquilliser. En effet, si lesdits agissements sont reconnus par le juge administratif dans le délai contentieux qu’on lui connaît en moyenne, des dommages et intérêts seront alloués, à la charge non du harceleur mais de l’établissement public dans lequel il travaille, ce qui peut renforcer un sentiment d’impunité.

Une jurisprudence rare dans la fonction publique hospitalière


Autant les illustrations jurisprudentielles abondent dans le secteur privé, autant les décisions sont relativement peu nombreuses dans le secteur de la fonction publique hospitalière.

Deux exemples peuvent néanmoins être cités.

Dans une première espèce, un chef de bureau en charge des ressources humaines ayant reçu une nouvelle affectation par suite de difficultés relationnelles avec un nouveau directeur a subi, dans ce nouveau poste, outre un déclassement, une grave dégradation de ses conditions de travail (un bureau exigu, privation de son ordinateur et de l’usage du téléphone, des tâches d’exécution sans rapport avec le grade de catégorie A du fonctionnaire, une notation anormalement défavorable). Le juge administratif a reconnu le harcèlement moral même si la victime n’a pas apporté suffisamment la preuve d’un lien de cause à effet entre ses problèmes de santé et ses difficultés professionnelles ((TA Besançon, 11 décembre 2003, Braido c/ Centre de réadaptation de Quingey, n° 02539. AJFP 2004, p. 87.)).

Dans une seconde espèce, une infirmière, après 10 ans de travail satisfaisant, a fait l’objet d’une soudaine animosité de la part de son cadre infirmier, reconnue comme harcèlement moral. Le tribunal administratif a jugé que ces faits, dès lors qu’ils avaient pour objet intentionnel de dégrader ses conditions de travail et révélaient une animosité particulière à l’égard de l’agent, constituaient une faute personnelle qui, bien que commise dans l’exercice des fonctions d’encadrement, est dépourvue de tout lien avec le service.

L’administration, qui n’a eu connaissance que tardivement de ces faits, est restée étrangère à la faute commise. Elle ne peut donc voir sa responsabilité engagée ((TA Versailles, 15 octobre 2004, Balenguer c/ Centre hospitalier intercommunal de Poissy-Saint Germain en Laye, n° 031193. AJFP 2005, p. 99.)).

Le rôle de la preuve est fondamental et ce qui a été accordé par le tribunal de Besançon ne l’a pas été par la Cour administrative d’appel de Douai, faute de preuve suffisante, toute proportion gardée ((CAA Douai, 26 avril 2005, Mme X c/ Centre hospitalier de Dieppe, n° 02DA00284.)).

Une remarquable décision du Conseil d’État


Quelques jours avant l’affaire retentissante de la garde à vue, la Haute juridiction administrative rendait une décision courageuse et nécessaire, concernant la situation d’un agent public de l’Office national de la chasse et de la faune sauvage ((CE, 24 novembre 2006, Mme B, n° 256313 – AJDA 2007, p. 428, note P. Planchet.)), aisément transposable dans la fonction publique hospitalière.

D’une part, le Conseil d’État a reconnu en effet l’existence d’une situation de harcèlement moral bien avant l’édiction de la loi du 17 janvier 2002 de modernisation sociale réprimant lesdits agissements, les faits remontant à 1991 pour durer 6 ans.

Pour ce faire, les éléments constitutifs de cette infraction ont bien été relevés en l’espèce : agissements répétés, dégradation des conditions de travail et atteinte à la dignité de la personne.

D’autre part, la décision a procédé à un partage de responsabilité entre harceleur et harcelé, le comportement de la victime ayant contribué à la dégradation des conditions de travail dont elle s’est plainte.

Promise à une publication au recueil Lebon, cette décision est appelée à faire date dans le droit de la fonction publique.

Du point de vue strict du droit administratif, cette solution se comprend d’autant plus que le harcèlement moral, en plus d’être prévu par le statut général des fonctionnaires, constitue une atteinte au principe d’égalité de traitement qui est une garantie fondamentale du fonctionnaire dans la mesure où il a pour objet et pour effet de placer la victime dans une situation d’infériorité, d’anxiété, propice à une dégradation de son état physique et mental. Il ne se situe pas dans le seul contexte des rapports hiérarchiques. Ses auteurs peuvent aussi être des collègues, voire des subordonnés.

Le rôle décisif des instances


Au premier chef, la direction – même si juridiquement, elle ne constitue pas une instance – se doit de jouer un rôle primordial en faisant en sorte que le règlement intérieur rappelle les dispositions législatives punissant les faits de harcèlement moral, qu’il s’agisse du code pénal ou qu’il s’agisse du code de la fonction publique. La nomination d’un médiateur permet de faire prendre conscience au coupable de tels agissements des risques auxquels il s’expose et surtout, qu’il sache que la victime connaît désormais ses capacités de résistance. On peut de la sorte espérer un changement d’attitude par crainte si ce n’est pas remords.

Les actions de prévention, mises en œuvre par le CHSCT, passent par la rupture du silence en diffusant l’information, de façon ludique si c’est souhaitable, à destination de tous les agents et par la création éventuelle d’une cellule d’écoute institutionnalisée qui interviendrait une demi-journée par mois, par exemple.

Les formations en management doivent s’adresser à tous les cadres (catégories A et B) conduits, de par leurs fonctions, à encadrer plusieurs agents.

Il appartient au médecin du travail d’être associé au projet dans la mesure où il tient une place primordiale dans l’écoute de la souffrance morale des salariés.

Il ne faut pas non plus oublier le secours des assistantes sociales qui peuvent élaborer de précieux instruments de mesure du phénomène.

Telles sont les quelques propositions, simples à mettre en œuvre, pour mettre en échec un phénomène qui a, par le passé, conduit à plusieurs suicides.

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