It is the duty of every employer, regardless of the number of employees, to prevent mobbing. The duty to refrain from mobbing practices does not only refer to the employer’s own behavior, but also to enforcing ethical behavior from other members of the organization that does not violate the dignity of other co-workers. One of the solutions that can be introduced in a company, as an element of preventive measures, is an anti-mobbing committee. However, it should be remembered that its establishment does not release the employer from responsibility.
How can an employer realize the duty to prevent mobbing?
The generally applicable regulations do not indicate the forms of fulfilling this obligation.
Unfortunately, only the materialization of the employer’s responsibility for counteracting mobbing and for the actions of other employees in this area often becomes an impulse to develop and implement an anti-mobbing procedure in the organization.
What is an anti-mobbing committee? When and how to appoint one?
Anti-mobbing procedures can be a separate document or can be a part of internal acts of an organisation, such as work regulations. Most often, in such a document, which describes the rules of conduct in the event of a difficult situation in the organization, a subsidiary organ is established, which is the anti-mobbing committee, its structure and method of operation.
An employer may also decide to establish a special anti-mobbing committee only after a member of the organization reports a difficult situation. In such a case, however, the establishment of the anti-mobbing committee will only be an element of the management of the pathological situation reported by the employee, and not an element of the broadly understood anti-mobbing prevention, which, in the case of possible court proceedings, may have a significant impact, negatively influencing the situation of the employer as a party obliged to take preventive measures.
Goals of setting up an anti-mobbing committee, method of procedure
The anti-mobbing committee, as a body appointed by the employer to undertake measures to clarify whether mobbing has taken place in an organization, is concerned, among other things, with:
- Identifying signs of mobbing – through meetings and interviews with the person reporting the mobbing, the person suspected of mobbing and witnesses of situations potentially qualifying as mobbing;
- Formulating proposals for the employer in terms of preventing and remedying the effects of mobbing;
- Gathering the necessary information and documentation for the employer to make the right strategic decisions.
Report on the committee’s activities
The outcome of the investigation carried out by the anti-mobbing committee is a report containing a proposal for removing the consequences and preventing difficult situations in the future, including a proposal for resolving the dispute based on all the information gathered. The report is a basis for the employer to draw consequences for the persons responsible for the mobbing behavior and to implement corrective measures in the organization.
The proceedings before the anti-mobbing committee are confidential.
The anti-mobbing committee’s structure
Because the anti-mobbing committee should be nonpartisan in nature, it should include the following individuals:
- an employee representative;
- an employer’s representative – usually someone from the HR department;
- a third person nominated jointly by the employer and the employee (a mediator, psychologist, lawyer, other external expert).
The anti-mobbing committee should be composed of at least three people. It is important that the committee include people from different employee groups whose knowledge and life experience will guarantee an objective and thorough investigation of the case.
An employer who has decided to establish this organ as part of a general anti-mobbing policy (i.e., at a stage before receiving a report of mobbing from a member of the organization) may decide:
- whether the committee established will be permanent or will be created separately for each investigation;
- whether the committee will include only company employees or also external experts.
Liability for the activities of the anti-mobbing committee
An indispensable question in the context of the activities of an organization’s anti-mobbing committee is the question of liability for the committee’s mistakes made during the course of the investigation, such as:
- erroneous determination of the facts;
- failure to hear all the persons concerned;
- a lack of objectivity.
Remember that the anti-mobbing committee’s work results in a report on the basis of which the employer makes, in particular, personnel decisions (e.g. transferring the employee to another position).
The anti-mobbing committee in the jurisprudence of courts
According to the jurisprudence, the anti-mobbing committee is only an auxiliary body of the employer in the fight against mobbing, thus constituting a manifestation of the employer’s statutory obligations. Consequently, it means that it is the employer who is responsible for the committee’s mistakes, which the committee commits while carrying out the employer’s tasks in the scope of prevention.
The significance of the anti-mobbing committee for the organization
No legal provision obliges an employer to establish an anti-mobbing committee, nor does it specify its tasks or the manner of conducting the investigation.
Nevertheless, in our opinion, the establishment of an anti-mobbing committee – preferably in a document describing an anti-mobbing procedure – is an expression of care for the welfare of the workplace and the fulfillment of the obligation to prevent mobbing.
Moreover, the activity of the anti-mobbing committee in the organisation contributes to the positive image of the organisation, influencing the culture of the organisation, the efficiency of the employees and its prestige in the market.
However, we should remember to properly select the structure of the anti-mobbing committee and to ensure its future professional performance. A properly drafted anti-mobbing procedure plays a major role in this case.
Paula Staszak-Urbańska, LL.M., trainee attorney-at-law (PL)