Mobbing: a new form of discrimination and social exclusion at the workplace

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για mobbingIn recent years, amidst an unprecedented financial and humanitarian crisis, we have become observers and/or victims of some extreme deviant behaviour leading to social marginalisation. This often involves verbal and non-verbal violence exercised against those who tend to differ from the dominant group, for various reasons, including their political affiliations, their gender, nationality, sexual orientation or even disability. For those reasons they are considered by the perpetrators to be weak or disadvantaged members of society.

Discrimination in the workplace first became apparent in the early 1990s, but it has recently resurfaced and reached alarming proportions through a new form of it, known as ‘mobbing’.

This term comes from the English word to ‘mob’, which in Greek translates as ‘attack’ or ‘bother’, and usually refers to the ‘psychological terrorism’ or ‘moral harassment’ that disadvantaged employees may suffer at the hands of superiors in the hierarchy or colleagues to try to force them to leave their jobs. The sociologist Konrad Lorenz argues that it reflects the hostility of the herd against its weakest members and constitutes the latest manifestation of what used to be racist violence at the workplace.

Through mobbing, the employee-victim undergoes constant psychological attacks of various kinds, much like a pupil experiencing bullying at school. They may receive repeated verbal abuse, intimidation, cruel or degrading treatment, mocking or libel. They may also experience deliberate devaluation of their work, excessive burdens with obligations and deadlines that cannot be met or tasks that do not correspond with their qualifications or skills.  These offend the personality of the employee and can have a devastating effect on their mental and physical health and that of their family.

According to the medical community, mobbing at the workplace can provoke a multitude of serious mental and physical conditions related to work stress or ‘burn-out’ (i.e. complete exhaustion leading to an inability to continue performing work). This is already recognized in the law also, as a form of occupational illness. What is happening now in Greece proves what the medical community say to be true.

There are many ways in which mobbing can affect people. Often, it causes sleeping disorders, depression, aggressive behaviour, physical fatigue or even suicidal behaviour. For employers too, there is a negative impact - declining productivity of the victim of up to 80% according to some experts – but also general disturbance at the workplace affecting overall production.

Although there is still no legislation specifically to combat mobbing, victims are in fact fully protected through a combination of laws, so that a victim can make the following kinds of claims:

  • A claim for breach of the principle of equal treatment during employment in the broad sense (i.e. in relation to the supply of goods or services), punishable with imprisonment (from six months to three years) and a financial penalty (from EUR 1,000 to 5,000), as well as other Penal Code offences, such as insult (Article 361), defamation(Article 363) and extortion (Article 385).
  • A petition for preliminary measures and/or an injunction to cease the harmful behaviour, along with restitution of the moral and material harm to the employee.
  • A claim for severance pay arising from unilateral detrimental changes to the employment terms or constructive dismissal.
  • A claim for the annulment of the termination of the contract, where the termination was attributable to employer’s resentment of employee. It also might be granted if the dismissal was found to be based on revenge or forced resignation (constructive dismissal).
  • A complaint before the Greek Ombudsman and the Labour Inspectorate (SEPE), asking for administrative sanctions to be imposed.
  • A claim against the employer for harm caused by a work accident or occupational illness. 

 

 

Mariangela Vlagopoulou                        

Partner, Attorney-at-law - LL.M

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