Colombia has a special regulation on workplace harassment (Law 1010, 2006). Obligations and prohibitions for employees are spelled out in the Labor Code, along with rules for work agreements and internal processes for companies.
Colombian law defines this kind of harassment as persistent and demonstrable conduct against an employee by a colleague or superior with the purpose of generating fear, intimidation, and anguish to make an employee resign.
The purpose of Law 1010, 2006, is to define, prevent, correct and punish several forms of aggression, mistreatment, humiliation and, in general, any offense against human dignity exercised in a work relationship.
Furthermore, Resolution 1356 , 2012, created the Coexistence Committee as an internal organism that companies must implement to expressly take charge of workplace harassment issues. The purpose of this committee is to: (i) undertake harassment claims by any employee who considers himself a victim of workplace harassment; (ii) analyze and hear the parties related to the claim; (iii) determine the existence or not of harassment; and (iv) define the eventual sanction to the person who committed it. In cases where harassment is not found, the committee will recommend preventative or corrective measures to better protect the work environment.
If a Coexistence Committee has not been implemented by a company, the harassed employee can file a complaint to the Ministry of Labor.
The committee, as a good practice, works with labor risk entities as part of the Colombian Social Security System to create alternatives to poor conduct and control the effects of it, such as stress or illness.
Special protection for employees
Whistle-blowers who file a harassment claim to the Coexistence Committee or the Ministry of Labor have a special protection period of six months from when the claim is filed. During this time, the employee cannot be dismissed or experience diminished work conditions.
Also during this period, the Coexistence Committee or the Ministry of Labor will begin an investigation to determine the existence of harassment. If the harassed employee is terminated, he or she can request reinstatement through a labor judge. As a consequence of this measure, employers can be required to pay salaries, fringe benefits and Social Security contributions for the time elapsed between termination and the employee’s reinstatement. The labor judge can also deem special indemnities.
As a general rule, Coexistence Committees do not allow the filing of anonymous complaints. In order to analyze and consider the correct measures to handle the situation, it is necessary to know the actors involved in a harassment complaint. This also will be helpful to determine eventual sanctions against the person who commits this conduct, including termination with fair cause.
For other issues concerning ethics and inappropriate labor practices, whistle- blowers can file anonymous claims to the Ministry of Labor. This entity is obliged to record and investigate them.
- New local companies must create a
- Coexistence Committee.
- Companies should develop strategies and communications to prevent workplace harassment and help maintain a good work environment.
- Employees should be invited to speak up (whistle-blow) about any instances of harassment.
- A company’s internal work and safety regulations must include programs and measures to handle the health effects caused by harassment.
Country-by-country and EU whistle-blowing rules need to be taken into account in setting the best practices and policies in this growing area of risk, including what an employer must do when faced with a whistle-blower claim, such as whether an investigation is required, protections of the employee who complained of company practices and litigation issues.
Best practice requires companies to take action in advance by creating a hotline and training its employees in ethical behavior.