Court Orders Dentist to Pay Damages for Sexual Harassment

A dentist was ordered by France’s top court to pay damages for sexually abusing a female assistant after the man was cleared of related criminal charges.

In a milestone ruling last month, the Cour de Cassation said the bar is lower for proving harassment in civil lawsuits than in criminal cases, where intent is key. The judges said the dental assistant was entitled to unfair-dismissal damages after complaining about her boss’s inappropriate language.

The dental assistant filed a labor lawsuit after being fired by the dentist in 2013, claiming she had been sexually harassed by her boss. Two years ago, an appellate court awarded her damages over the dismissal, but the dentist appealed.

The ruling creates a clearer path for victims of abuse to seek compensation. While sexual harassment is seen to be widespread in France — affecting as many as a third of women according to an Ifop poll two years ago — it has historically led to few criminal convictions.

Paris lawyer Zoë Royaux says the ruling may encourage victims of sexual harassment to consider both civil and criminal avenues.

“Don’t be afraid to use the different strands of the law,” said Royaux, a spokeswoman for the Fondation des femmes, which promotes gender equality. “Lodging a criminal complaint can sometimes lead to a disappointing outcome, that’s a known fact.”

Royaux says the top court ruling is a reminder that the criminal code doesn’t always trump civil rules. She also finds points of comparison between the dentist’s case and the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal that unfolded in the U.S. about a decade ago.

Strauss-Kahn, the former chief of the International Monetary Fund, and the maid who accused him of trying to rape her agreed to settle her civil lawsuit even after criminal charges against him were dropped.

The dentist, who wasn’t identified in the ruling, had argued that the assistant had only complained about harassment after she had been dismissed.

But the court said the hierarchical relationship with her boss was complicated by her need to finish her studies, “preventing her from leaving the dentist’s office without also forfeiting a chance to get her diploma.”

That had “logically and naturally restrained her from complaining,” the judges said.

“Moreover, she told the police officer when lodging a complaint that when she wanted to talk to her employer about his language, he had told her she should ‘loosen up,’” the judges said.

Copyright 2020 Bloomberg.

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Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause

Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and menopause

The Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause at Northwestern Memorial Hospital is a destination for women of all ages requiring highly specialized care. The Center is staffed by physicians, advanced practice nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, and psychotherapists who work collaboratively with specialists from every branch of medicine. With numerous medical specialists our multidisciplinary team approach ensures more accurate diagnoses and delivers individualized care based on each woman’s unique needs.

​The Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause is comprised of the following programs:

Once we have received your request for an appointment a coordinator will contact you to schedule an appointment and send you a questionnaire. This questionnaire must be filled out and returned prior to your first visit so that it may be reviewed by our clinical staff. If you are arriving from out of town, our coordinator can also connect you to the hospital concierge for hotel accommodations. 

For more information, please call 312.694.9676

Meet the Clinicians

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Lauren Streicher, MD, is the medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause and oversees all center clinical, research and educational activities. She is Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Feinberg School of Medicine, a Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a member of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America, Inc., The International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health, and The Scientific Network on Female Sexual Health and Cancer. She is also a Certified Menopause Practitioner of The North American Menopause Society.

​Dr. Streicher is the author of a comprehensive sexual and hormone health book: Sex Rx-Hormones, Health, and Your Best Sex Ever and The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy

In addition to her role as medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause, Dr. Streicher sees patients as part of her Extended Care Program.      


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Traci Kurtzer, MD, brings with her over 25 years of clinical experience in menopause, sexual medicine, and vulvo-vaginal conditions. She is a Certified Menopause Practitioner of the North American Menopause Society and also a member of the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Disease, and the National Vulvodynia Association. Dr. Kurtzer is currently the Medical Director of Trauma Informed Care and Education for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and provides specialized gynecologic care to patients with a past history of sexual abuse, assault and medical trauma. She is a member of The Healthcare Committee of the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force (CCHTTF) and the Cook County Trauma Informed Hospital Collaborative. She is a past president of The Chicago Gynecologic Society and trains medical professionals on intimate partner violence, human trafficking, the neurobiology of trauma and providing trauma informed medical care.

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Sarah Hwang, MD – As a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Dr. Hwang’s area of expertise is in complex pelvic pain, pelvic floor disorders and musculoskeletal pelvic pain. She is the Director of the
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