Workplace harassment: identify it and report it

Pedro Ramírez underwent a polygraph test in which his employer could detect that he had HIV. To finish checking, the legal representative of the company asked him to assist the doctor, but Ramírez abstained. Given the situation, his employer asked two employees to sign a record in which it was recorded the fact.

Harassment Photo by Freepic

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Colombian law prohibits an HIV carrier from informing his employer about his illness since article 15 of the constitution states that "all persons have the right to their personal and family privacy and their good name, and the Colombian State must respect them and make them respect."

Once the witnesses signed the minutes, the information about Ramirez's disease quickly filtered through the corridors of the company and with it the rejection by his colleagues was immediate. The events subsequently caused him a depression scheme and visits to the doctor became more frequent, but his employer traded them with vacation days and dismissal proceedings (administrative disciplinary actions that could lead to dismissal) to the point where Ramírez resigned.

The case of Ramírez is just the tip of the iceberg of a problem that is registered little. Only in the first half of 2018, 1645 complaints came to the Ministry of labor and according to Carlo Delgado, head of the Labor Law Unit of Legis, for statements of the newspaper El Tiempo, " the statistics do not reflect the true dimension of workplace harassment, then, in the absence of a follow-up on how many cases come to trial to apply sanctions, the victims are discouraged and do not report. "

For this it is worth starting from what is known as labor harassment is a repetitive behavior, persistent over time, aimed at instilling fear and terror in the worker to achieve their resignation, and to identify it is necessary to understand which These are behaviors because not everything is harassment.

The behaviors

The conduct of the harassment must be persistent, correct, and can be exercised from the boss to the subordinate, between subordinates and subordinates to bosses, and its purpose is to cause a work injury to the worker to demotivate him in work to the point of giving up.

"Within these conducts are the labor abuse, the labor persecution, the discrimination, the labor obstruction, the inequity, the lack of protection and each one of them has specific factors" affirms the lawyer Catalina Grosso, specialist in labor law.

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Labor abuse

It is understood as an act of violence against the physical and moral integrity, sexual freedom, the worker's property or injurious expressions, where they attribute behaviors that they have not committed, outrageous, that violate their right to privacy, that undermine their self-esteem and dignity within the employment relationship. If you've experienced any of these cases, you'll want to speak with an employee rights attorney.

Labor persecution

They are arbitrary conducts that lead to induce the resignation of the worker. For example, disqualification from the work you do, excessive workload compared to peers with equal charge.


For reasons of race, gender, family origin, age, religious creed.


Those conducts carried out to hinder the development of the work where the employee can not make use of the elements of his position. "That they hide information, that they do not have access to it, that they erase it," says Grosso.

Labor unprotection

It refers to the non-payment of social security that by law corresponds to receive the employee. Not making the contributions to the health and pension systems, or not having the personal protection elements required for their position (endowment) within reach, is a severe fault.


When someone is assigned to perform tasks corresponding to a lower position.

What is not workplace harassment?

Keep in mind that the orders and instructions of the superior are not acts of harassment. "Sometimes people think that because they send him to do something that is not related to the position, they are already harassing him. For example, if within the requirements of the position is not stipulated to travel, but for the needs of the company they ask the employee to do it with all the expenses, expenses, and work time is not impaired, that is not harassment, "says Grosso.

On the other hand, keep in mind that the orders, the reasonable demands towards loyalty and business loyalty (included in the internal regulations), and everything that is destined to exercise the disciplinary authority does not constitute a transgression of your rights as an employee. Companies have the disciplinary power to call an employee to the diligence of discharges if this violates corporate regulations or submit memoranda aimed at requesting the requirements to improve labor deficiencies. To terminate a contract is not an issue of harassment either, and less when it is done within the legal parameters.

Now if before you can identify a type of harassment, it is essential to keep in mind that the responsibility always falls on who exercises the harassment and on the employer that allows it. Faced with this situation, the first thing to do is go to the workplace coexistence committee, which will study the case, call the people involved in the complaint to reconcile. If the committee identifies that such behaviors may exist within the company, it must prevent, mitigate or issue recommendations so that this type of action does not continue to occur, but if they persist, the worker must attend the Ministry of Labor. Or competent authority in labor matters in the country, so that it knows to go to a labor judge, who is the only competent authority to determine whether or not there is harassment. Based on the claims of the victim, it will be defined if the employee should be compensated for damages or fines to the company for allowing the abuse.

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