The repercussions of workplace mobbing can impact various aspects of an employer’s operations, notably its reputation, employee morale, and financial matters.
It is important to bear in mind that, for any behavior to be classified as mobbing, it must meet specific legal criteria, which encompass persistent and enduring actions or conduct such as harassment or intimidation directed towards an employee, resulting in a diminished professional evaluation, aimed at or causing degradation or humiliation, isolation, or exclusion from the team of coworkers. This implies that not every undesirable behavior in the workplace can be termed as mobbing. Conversely, a prompt and efficient response by the employer should help curb undesirable behaviors before they can be characterized as long-lasting and persistent.
The Obligation to Prevent Mobbing
According to Article 94(3) § 1 of the Labour Code, the employer is obliged to counteract mobbing, primarily achieved through the implementation of anti-discrimination and anti-mobbing policies within organizations. These policies outline procedures to follow when undesirable actions are detected, and their enforcement is typically the first step in preventing such occurrences. Equally crucial are preventive measures aimed at educating and sensitizing employees to ensure that potential violations are reported to the employer before escalating. These preventive actions may include:
- Employee training sessions;
- Newsletters and informational campaigns;
- Discussions and meetings designed to raise awareness on the topic.
Importantly, the employer is liable for the consequences of mobbing even if the perpetrator acted unintentionally, underscoring the significance of preventive actions.
What if an employee reports mobbing despite preventive efforts?
In such a case, the aforementioned procedures are instrumental. In addition to formal protocols, ensuring confidentiality and support for the aggrieved employee is critical.
It is essential to avoid hasty judgments and to listen to potential witnesses and, most importantly, the alleged mobber. It may transpire that the complainant has misjudged the nature of the behavior or, in extreme cases, is deliberately attempting to harm a coworker. Therefore, maintaining a sensible distance and objectivity on the part of the employer is fundamental in conducting an investigative process. It is worth noting that the employer is obligated to respect the dignity and personal rights of every employee, including the potential mobber.
The employer should also take steps to protect those who support the complainant from potential retaliatory actions. Such an approach will foster a work environment based on trust in the employer’s commitment to promptly address potential violations. An efficient employer response can help prevent the fulfillment of the criteria for persistence and pervasiveness. The occurrence of mobbing within an organization should serve as the ultimate signal for the necessity of taking appropriate preventive measures.
Potential Consequences of Mobbing for the Employer
The repercussions of workplace mobbing are multifaceted. First and foremost, this phenomenon negatively affects the work environment, leading to reduced employee efficiency and increased turnover. Furthermore, damage to the employer’s reputation can disrupt recruitment processes and even impact the employer’s relationships with contractors and clients, especially in light of the growing importance of corporate social responsibility and adherence to ethical standards.
In the event of mobbing occurring, the employer must be prepared for potential claims from the employee. If mobbing has caused health issues, the employee may seek compensation from the employer as monetary redress for the harm suffered. This compensation should primarily serve as a compensatory measure, and its amount should not be merely symbolic.
According to Article 94(3) § 4 of the Labour Code, an employee who has experienced mobbing or terminated an employment contract due to mobbing has the right to seek compensation from the employer in an amount not lower than the minimum wage. The purpose of this compensation is to offset all the financial losses incurred by the employee as a result of the mobbing.
It is important to remember that, in accordance with Article 55 § 1(1) of the Labour Code, an employee can terminate an employment contract without notice when the employer has committed a severe breach of their fundamental obligations toward the employee. In such cases, the employee is also entitled to applicable compensation. According to the ruling of the Supreme Court of September 15, 2021, case number I PSKP 20/21, an employee who terminates an employment contract without notice due to a serious breach of obligations by the employer, including a breach of the duty to prevent mobbing, is entitled to both types of statutory compensation under Article 55 § 1(1) and Article 94(3) § 4 of the Labour Code.
In the context of workplace mobbing, it is necessary to pay attention to its diverse and inevitable consequences for the employer. Among these, significant aspects include reputational damage, decreased employee morale, work process disruption, and financial implications. Therefore, preventive actions should take on specific and practical forms. It is essential that each case, even potential cases of mobbing, be individually and carefully analyzed, while respecting the personal rights and dignity of employees.
Cordially inviting you to the conference organized by the our law firm, which will cover the topics of mobbing and efforts to combat this issue. The event is titled ‘Mobbing, Discrimination, and Work-Life Balance – Three Challenges for Organizations in Practice‘ and will be held on November 23, 2023.
Maria Aleksiejak, Trainee attorney-at-law (PL)