In recent years and especially for several months, companies have been increasingly faced with requests for recognition of work accidents from employees following interviews that have taken place in the workplace.
Sometimes it is at the end or the day after the interview that the employee sends his employer a work stoppage following “an accident at work”, sometimes it is several days later that the employee goes on sick leave. , but well advised returns to the employer later to inform him that he considers to have suffered an accident at work. It is in this context that treating physicians often use the term “reactive anxiety-depressive syndrome”.
What are the chances one tel « accident of job » is recognized ? Which are the risks for the employer? What are the means from dispute and from prevention ?
An accident at work is the event where a series of events that have occurred on certain dates as a result of or on the occasion of work, whatever the cause to which the employee is a victim and resulting in bodily injury ( Article L.411-1 of the Social Security Code). This damage can be physical but also psychological, as the Court of Cassation expressly recognized (Cass. 2e Civ. 07/01/2003 n ° 02-30.576). On this occasion, case law therefore recognized that the nervous breakdown suffered by an employee after having been informed by his supervisor during an appraisal interview that he was not satisfactory and which was demoted, could be recognized as an accident at work insofar as there had been a mental injury. If this jurisprudential precedent exists, the recognition of the industrial accident is far from being obvious, apart from violent exchanges verbally. Indeed, to have the quality of a work accident, a depressive pathology must be related to a sudden event generating a shock or a psychological disorder.
This is not the case when the employee’s state of health gradually deteriorates due to conflicting relationships with colleagues or the hierarchy. (Cass. 2e Civ. 18/06/2015 n ° 14-17.691). The CNAM specifies that the event giving rise to an occupational accident having caused psychological trauma must also be defined as “abnormal” by its brutality, its unpredictability, its exceptional nature or its deviation from the usual course of labor relations (CNAM letter TASLR-DPR n ° 16/2011 March 15, 2011). In addition, it is necessary that the accidental fact has caused an injury. In the absence of injury or trauma, there can be no work accident and it is up to the employee to demonstrate proof of the trauma he has suffered.
Case law holds that the victim’s statements alone are not sufficient to establish this proof and that she must establish, other than by her own statements, the exact circumstances and the professional nature of the accident (Cass. Soc. 26/05 / 1994 n ° 92-10.106). The mere fact that an employee has informed a manager of his company or his employer of the appearance of an injury during his work cannot justify the qualification of an accident at work retained by the Judges. (Cass. Soc. 08/06/1978 n ° 77-11.942).
It is therefore possible to highlight the absence of a certificate of direct witness to the accident, while the circumstances of the accident must be established other than by the version of the victim employee. (Cass. 2e Civ. 21/06/2006 n ° 04-30.670)
What are the consequences for the company and l’accident of job is recognized ?
The employee is protected within the framework of the termination of his employment contract, only the serious fault or the impossible maintenance in employment, being able to be invoked. In the event of incapacity, his termination indemnity is doubled. If he could establish that the employer was aware of the danger to which he was exposed, he could seek recognition of inexcusable fault on the part of the employer and additional compensation. Finally, depending on the workforce of the company, recognition of an accident at work has an impact on employer contributions covering the risk of accidents at work occupational disease. The employer therefore has a strong interest in combating by any means the abusive attempts of an employee to have a work accident situation recognized in the absence of an abnormal event that would have occurred in the time and place of work.
Comment can the employer protect himself against this risk?
First of all, interviews should be conducted with caution, especially when it comes to disciplinary or evaluation interviews leading to negative conclusions about the quality of the employee’s work. When an employee claims to be the victim of bodily injuries occurring at the time and place of work immediately brought to the attention of the employer, the latter must make a declaration whatever his opinion on the causes of the accident (Article L.441-1 of the Social Security Code). Regardless of the date on which the employer is informed by the employee, the employer is obliged to report this accident.
It is at employee that it belongs to to prove the proof of the trauma he suffered
At the same time, it will be necessary for him to make reservations about the industrial accident with the CPAM within 10 days of the declaration. The reservations formulated by the employer must be justified, the employer must contest the professional nature of the accident through its reservations. By being sufficiently precise and detailed, reservations can only relate to the circumstances of time and place or to the existence of a cause totally unrelated to work. It should therefore be specified that there was no accident at the workplace and that the employee does not add any other element than his own words to characterize the existence of a sudden event. It is really the very materiality of the accident that must be challenged.