Hostile or insulting behavior a person suffers from in their workplace, betterknown as “mobbing” has become an invisible illegal activity, and most of its sufferers are women.
More than 50 percent of Mexican professionals have been the object of work harassment, but there are no adequate complaint mechanisms, so the perpetrators act with impunity, which causes their victims psychologicaland professional problems.
“Mobbing” is reflected in actions that implicate work and sexual harassment, payment of low salaries, long workdays, threats of firing and even the fabrication of crimes. Harassment cases are recorded every day, but few are reported, mainly because of fear of losing their jobs or suffering some reprisal.
“Offenses against working women are ever more common, no matter the employment rank, and these include belittlement of their performance, allotment of greater work loads, magnifying mistakes, ignoring them or verbally threatening them,” wrote Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM) anthropologist Florencia Peña Saint Martin said in her book. “When debate punishes us, debate on mobbing in Mexico.”
Peña Saint Martin said “mobbing” is planned and executed with premeditation, treachery and advantage, and therefore pushes the victim to a situation of indefensibility and vulnerability to eliminate her from the workplace or isolate her. In extreme cases harassed workers can become suicidal. Because the victim is different from the accusers, to the degree that the person might be brilliant or renowned in their work, the perpetrator is envious. There is also the case of people who are harassed because they are “weak” and do not fit into the same work environment as coworkers who think themselves superior.
The attacks carry the clear intention of causing the victim to give up and quit their job, in which case the company must let the person leave without without any renumeration since the victim could not stand the attacks of their harrasers.
Some of the priming factors for “mobbing” are when the workplace has more than 50 employees; when the company lacks a clear organizational chart and when there are middle managers and the institution or authority in charge is incompetent to resolve inner conflicts.
In modifications to the Federal Work Law made Nov. 30, 2012, “mobbing” is highlighted as a “work risk” due to its characteristics and harm to its victims’ rights.
The modification establishes that the situation can unleash accidents and diseases such as stress, anxiety, digestive problems and sharp personality changes.
However, this reform does not offer the victim a worker’s rights alternative with which they might request reimbursement due to the harm suffered or, when this is lacking, request reincorporation into their work position.
This work reform does not consider work harassment as a work disease and is limited to defining and banning harassment or sexual harassment in workplaces.
There is also the added problem of the worker’s lack of responsibility when the owner, the owner’s family, or their representatives are the perpetrators of harassment or sexual harassment, or the demand to perform acts which undercut the employee’s dignity or, when this is lacking, when a worker himself undertakes these sort of actions.
The Federal Work Law considers a financial sanction for the owner that commits discriminatory acts, as well as for any person who commits harassment or sexual harassment, with fines from 250 to 5,000 minimum wages.
The Mexican Supreme Court indicated there are already established criteria to report “mobbing” or work harassment before a court under work, penal, administrative, or civil law according to the victim’s wishes.
This is based on General Administration Agreement III/2012, which includes the bases to investigate “mobbing” as Mexico’s highest court establishes it.
In this way, the person seeking redress must prove that the objective of their aggressors and coworkers is to intimidate, extinguish, flatten, threaten, or emotionally or intellectually consume him or her.
All this will lead to the victim’s exclusion from the organization and they will have the satisfaction of the need of offending, controlling or destroying the victim.
Work harassment and aggressiveness occurs among coworkers, therefore there will always be a person that only receives aggressions, which creates an active aggressor and a passive victim.
Behaviors like these must occur systematically, meaning from a series of hostile acts or behaviors toward one of the participants in a work relationship, therefore one isolated act cannot constitute “mobbing” if there is no continuity in the aggression against some employee or the owner himself.
The manner in which the hostile behavior develops must be detailed and the standard of evidence for the victim should be flexible.
“Mobbing” must also be distinguished from behaviors inherent to the demands of the work.
The Mexican Supreme Court established these standards after solving a work case where the victim did not prove the conducts which make up work harassment under ordinary civil law.
Mexican company OCC Mundial, which conducts studies related to the workplace, said several studies indicate that 51 percent of workers polled worldwide suffer from work harassment.
However, it also reported that the numbers in Mexico are beneath the global average because the country has little information on the topic of work harassment, leading to 69.5 percent of those polled claiming to never have heard the term “mobbing.”
The Mexican Congress has already sounded an alert for a “mobbing” increase, so legislators made an urgent call to establish actions at the federal level to detect complaints and severely punish authorities who participate in this practice.
Congress said the Protocol for Intervention for Cases of Harassment and Sexual Harassment was enacted in 2009 but most departments have actually not implemented it, so it is urgent to stop these type of crimes.
By Alberto Valderrábano
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