Moral damages due to harassment at work involves a serious violation of the fundamental rights of a worker.
The article 50 of the Workers’ Statute (ET) regulates the extinction of the employment relationship by will of the worker, considered as despido improcedente (and giving rise to the payment provided for the same), the termination by the employee due to the breach of the employer’s obligations, and the termination by the employee due to the modification of the working conditions that entail an impairment of the employee’s dignity.
On the other hand, article 15 of the Constitution, in relation to article 10 of the same legal body, establishes the right to physical and moral integrity as a fundamental right.
Extinction of the contract by the worker due to labor harassment
Harassment at work involves a violation of fundamental rights that may entail additional compensation to that applicable for unfair dismissal established in Article 50 of the Workers’ Statute.
In this sense, the High Court of Justice of Andalusia has ruled in its sentence No. 1848/2019, of July 18, providing that “the dismissal caused by moral harassment requires additional compensation for the injury to the moral integrity and dignity of the worker“.
The case, in particular, revolves around an action for termination of the employment contract based on the situation of harassment at work to which the plaintiff worker was subjected, postulating, together with the corresponding compensation for termination of the employment contract, that derived from the material and moral damages suffered, by invoking the injury to the right to moral integrity of the art. 15 CE, in relation to art. 10 CE.
The worker, who belonged to the professional category of pharmacist, suffered stomping, elbowing and rebukes by coworkers, causing her temporary disability due to anxiety, so that she was forced to request the indemnified termination of her contract.
The lower court upheld the termination of the contract, but not the claim for protection of fundamental rights filed against the defendant employer. However, the Chamber of the Supreme Court of Andalusia, upholding the termination of the contract, upheld the protection of fundamental rights and also ordered the company to pay the employee the amount of €25,000 in additional compensation for material damages.
This is because the Court understood that the company carried out a behavior that exceeds the limits of the simple cause for termination contemplated in paragraphs a) and c) of art. 50 of the ET and that, in short, directly affects the personal dignity and the deepest feelings of the worker, expressly stating that “such behavior has not only been destructive, but also malicious, and has had its origin in the interpersonal relations existing within the company“.
The Chamber proceeded, therefore, and taking into consideration the Supreme Court Decisions of 9-6-1993 and 8-5-1995 (which in unification of doctrine, consider that, once the violation of the fundamental right has been declared, the existence of moral damages is presumed and the right to compensation for the same is automatically born), to consider the additional compensation requested for the violation of the fundamental right invoked since, according to the doctrine, not only the damages derived from the termination of the contract must be assessed, but also the material and moral damages caused by the psychological illness that the worker had to endure as a result of the employer’s behavior.
And how is the compensation for moral damages calculated?
The amount must be calculated taking into account the circumstances of the case, the nature of the injury and the period of time that the behavior lasted.the TSJA resorted to the criteria for calculating the material damages provided for in the Law on Infractions and Sanctions in the Social Order (LISOS).
It considered adequate the additional compensation requested by the worker in the appeal, which, in accordance with the above scales, was composed of:
- As loss of earnings the amount of 5500 € as a consequence of the amounts lost during the time the worker was off work;
- The amount of 14,500 € for economic damages derived from 480 days of sick leave until the termination of the contract at the rate of 30.15 €/day.
- The amount of 5000 € for material damages.
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