Le harcèlement moral : mode d’emploi du juge pénal

Il n’est pas courant que le juge pénal prononce une sanction sur des faits de harcèlement moral allégués par un ou plusieurs salarié(s) à l’encontre de son (ou leur) employeur. Le magistrat répressif renâcle en effet aux condamnations, sur le fondement de l’article 222-33-2 du code pénal, pour au moins deux raisons.

La première raison tient à la définition même de l’infraction pénale qui exige des agissements répétés ayant pour objet ou pour effet une dégradation des conditions de travail susceptible de porter atteinte aux droits et à la dignité de la victime, d’altérer sa santé physique ou mentale ou de compromettre son avenir professionnel. Telle qu’elle est posée, la définition donne immanquablement lieu à interprétation.

Or, les contours assez mouvants de cette notion s’accomodent, à la vérité, assez mal avec le principe d’interprétation stricte de la loi pénale, telle que prévue à l’article 111-4 du même code. Des motifs élémentaires de sécurité juridique s’opposeraient par exemple à une définition de l’homicide à géomètrie variable. Il devrait donc – toute proportion gardée – en être de même du harcèlement moral.

La seconde raison pour laquelle les condamnations doivent se compter sur les doigts d’une main, réside dans la redoutable (si ce n’est dirimante) difficulté d’apporter les preuves solides et indiscutables d’un harcèlement, de nature à emporter la conviction des juges correctionnels.

C’est au regard de ces obstacles que l’arrêt de la 3ème Chambre correctionnelle de la Cour d’appel de Montpellier du 25 mars 2010 revêt une importance singulière, les juges ayant livré une véritable clé de lecture pour qui souhaiterait intenter une action pénale sur ce fondement textuel.

Jamais, de mémoire de juriste, et sauf erreur ou omission de ma part, une condamnation n’a été prononcée à un tel niveau de juridiction et ce, à un tel niveau de responsabilité hiérarchique. Car il s’est agi ni plus ni moins que de condamner le Directeur général du Centre hospitalier régional universitaire de Montpellier. On peut dès lors comprendre, dans ces conditions, que les magistrats montpelliérains aient souhaité, au long des 34 pages de décision, faire oeuvre didactique en posant un principe qui assurément mérite d’être relevé et qui, à n’en pas douter, guidera les confrères assurant la défense des parties civiles, comme celle des prévenus.

Les faits relatés dans l’arrêt – et dans le détail desquels la présente brève ne rentrera pas – illustrent, jusqu’à la caricature, le phénomène de Cour instauré ou entretenu par des hauts responsables lors de leur prise de poste visant à assujettir les employés et à prononcer des « mises au placard » à l’encontre des voix divergentes.

Cela étant dit, l’élément central de l’arrêt réside surtout à mon sens dans l’effort de distinction terminologique accompli par les juges, lesquels ont retenu les dispositions prévues par le code pénal.

La précision peut paraître surabondante mais les parties civiles invoquaient également les dispositions de l’article 6 quinquiès alinéa 1 du Statut général de la fonction publique, insérées par la loi n°2002-73 du 17 janvier 2002 de modernisation sociale (article 178 de la loi).

En effet, la juridiction du second degré considère que l’infraction définie pénalement doit se différencier du harcèlement moral général et ne saurait se limiter à des considérations abstraites.

Il appartient au juge pénal d’apprécier concrètement la nature et la féquence des agissements reprochés, leur intensité, l’existence ou non d’une stratégie et le contexte professionnel. S’agissant du caractère intentionnel et dolosif du harcèlement, il l’appréciera au regard du caractère humiliant ou vexatoire des agissements, de leur portée, de la personnalité de l’auteur et de la capacité de résistance de la victime.

Voici donc une définition prétorienne qui pallie, comme à l’accoutumée, l’insuffisance de la loi.

A bon lecteur…

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