The action in moral harassment is prescribed by 5 years from the day when the holder of a right knew or should have known the facts allowing him to exercise it, and this by reference to article 2224 of the civil Codel.

In a judgment delivered on June 29, 2022 (appeal no. 21-13.959), and published in the bulletin, the social chamber recalls the procedures for assessing the limitation period for acts of moral harassment suffered by an employee, in particular when the latter took place over several years.


1) The facts.

In the present case submitted to the Court of Cassation, an employee had been hired from February 27th, 1995 as a junior commercial attaché.

In July 2000, he was promoted to sales manager, executive status, then assigned, from October 1, 2005 and following a transfer request to a new agency where he performed the functions of sales engineer, then those of engineer senior salesperson from April 1, 2010.

The employee was dismissed for real and serious cause by letter dated January 25, 2016.

Claiming to have suffered moral harassment, he seized the labor court on September 5, 2016.

In a judgment of February 5, 2021, the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal dismissed all of the employee's claims, finding in particular that some of the acts of moral harassment invoked were time-barred.

In its decision of June 29, 2022, the Court of Cassation censures the judges on the merits, recalling the conditions for assessing the limitation period in matters of moral harassment.

2) The position of the Court of Cassation.

Pursuant to Articles 2224 of the Civil Code, L1152-1 and L1154-1 of the Labor Code, the Court of Cassation quashed the appeal judgment insofar as it considered that only acts of moral harassment invoked for the period from 2013 to 2016 had to be analyzed.

In doing so, the Court of Cassation recalls two essential points in terms of limitation in the context of moral harassment.

2.1) Starting point of the limitation period for moral harassment.


First of all, the Court of Cassation recalls in a very classic way that the limitation period, in matters of moral harassment, begins to run from the last act that can be qualified as such.

Thus, contrary to what was held by the Aix-en-Provence Court of Appeal, the limitation period is not assessed with regard to each fact invoked but rather with regard to the last act of moral harassment alleged by the employee.

This solution, if it is favorable to the employee, also allows a harmonization of the rules in terms of harassment on the social and penal level. Indeed, in criminal matters, the limitation period for the offense of moral harassment runs from the last incriminated act [1].


2.2) Analysis of the facts invoked by the employee in support of his moral harassment action.

In its decision of June 29th, 2022, the Court of Cassation recalls an essential point regarding the assessment of acts of moral harassment: when the action is not time-barred, the trial judges must analyze all the facts.

invoked by the employee, including if they took place more than 5 years before the referral. Also, potentially, the employee can invoke any fact that has occurred since the start of his collaboration, even well beyond the 5-year period, in order to establish the existence of moral harassment against him.

The Court of Cassation had already had the opportunity to recall this principle, in particular in a judgment of June 9, 2021 ruling that, the action of the employee not being time-barred: “the Court of Appeal rightly analyzed all the facts invoked by the employee allowing it to be presumed the existence of moral harassment, regardless of the date of their commission” [2]

This solution may appear severe for employers, particularly from a probative point of view when it comes to providing objective evidence dating back several (tens) years to justify the absence of moral harassment.

However, it makes it possible to sanction behaviors that have persisted over long periods of time and even though employees are often hesitant to seize the Labor Court, fearing reprisals if they are still in office.


Frédéric CHHUM avocat et ancien membre du conseil de l’ordre des avocats de Paris (mandat 2019-2021)

CHHUM AVOCATS (Paris, Nantes, Lille)


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