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Harassment in the workplace

Harassment at the workplace is based on unequal relationships of power and control. It can take many forms, ranging from emotional abuse to physical and sexual abuse.

Work-related harassment can take place not only in the workplace itself (e.g. at the factory or in the office), but also in work-related settings, such as in transport or accommodation provided by the employer, through online or telephone communication, in delegations or in work-related social activities.

Harassment at the workplace can occur between people of different or similar professional ranks, as well as between workers and third parties, such as customers. Although harassment by third parties is not explicitly covered by Romania's anti-harassment legislation, all employers have an obligation to ensure safe and healthy working conditions and therefore have a responsibility to take the necessary measures to eliminate hazards and violence. All employers have an obligation to prevent and combat harassment in the workplace.

The most common forms of workplace harassment are:

like verbal abuse (cursing, shouting, insults, name-calling) in private or in public, stalking, exaggerated supervision, social isolation, intimidation, threats, hostile behaviour, spreading rumours, infringement of the right to privacy

like threats, insults, abusive comments, hate speech and being sent obscene pictures/images;

like: the withholding personal, travel or other types of documents, unreasonable deadlines, withholding access from resources necessary to complete work tasks.

like hitting, shoving or destruction of property;

like touching, unwanted attention (including through messages, emails or gifts), gestures or images with a sexual tone, remarks on someone's body or clothing, groping, unwanted sexual advances, kissing;

like disregard of economic responsibilities (for example, salary payment), being professionally compromised/undermined, the pressure for uncompensated overtime work;

What does the law say?

Employers have the obligation to ensure the security and health of their employees, including their mental health, in all aspects regarding work (Labour Code, art. 175(1)).

This obligation isn't limited just to emplyed persons, hired according to the law, but also includes students, while they're completing an intership, apprentices/trainees and all other participants in the work process, as well as people in their probationary period, people in community service or volunteers, and unemployed people in professional training and people without legal written work contracts.

However, the law explicitly excludes domestic workers and people who are unemplyed "according to the law" (Law no. 319/2006 about work security and health, art. 5(a) and (c)).

In Romania, from a legal standpoint, workplace harassment is generally understood as a form of discrimination (on the basis of a protected identity, like citizenship, ethnicity, gender, etc.) and it is forbidden through a series of laws. The law protects not only Romanian citizens, but foreign ones as well.

What can you do if you've been harassed?

In numerous cases, when someone lets someone else know that they disapprove of an unwanted behaviour, this behaviour stops - or even if it doesn't stop entirely, a history of contesting the harassment starts, which can later be used in the development of evidence.

Often, however, due to unequal power dynamics, it is more efficient to follow the institutional procedures against harassment. The legal framework against harassment forbids victimisation: any adverse treatment, coming as a reaction to a formal complaint or judicial action regarding harassment can be sanctioned. The bellow options do not exclude each other.


Labour code

The Labour Code ensures the right to equal opportunities and treatment, dignity, health and work security for all employees hired by a Romanian employer on Romanian territory, including foreign citizens with individual work contracts.

The Labour Code forbids harassment based on race, citizenship, ethnicity, colour, language, religion, social origin, genetic features, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, non-transferable chronic illness, HIV status, political orientation, family responsibility or situation, trade union membership or activity, belonging to a disadvangated or vulnerable group (art. 5).

Ordinance no. 137/2000

Ordinance no. 137/2000 on the prevention and sanction of all forms of discrimination forbids harassment, including moral harassment, and punishes by contravention any such behaviour on the basis of race, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, social category, beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, belonging to a vulnerable/disadvantaged group, age, disability, refugee or asylum seeker status, or any other criteria that leads to a threatened, hostile, degrading or offensive state (art. 2(5)).

Conform with this Ordinance, employers have the obligation to take any measures necessary to prevent and combat acts of moral harassment at the workplace (art. 2(5^5)).

Law no. 202/2002

Law no. 202/2002 on equal opportunities and treatment among men and women forbids harassment on the basis of gender, including sexual and psychological harassment (art. 4 and 4(d^1)), defining harassment as "a situation in which unwanted behaviour is manifested, regarding someone's gender, with the aim or effect of injuring the dignity of the person in question and creating a threatening, hostile, degrading and insulting environment" (art. 4(c)).

According to the Methodological Implementation Norms of Law no. 202/2000, employers have the duty to take action to combat and eliminate discrimination based on gender (art. 4 and 5).

Criminal Code

The Criminal Code incriminated harassment when it consists of repeated acts of stalking, monitoring of someone's home, workplace or other often frequented places, or through phonecalls or communication through means of remote transmission that cause fear (art. 208(1)).

The Criminal Code forbids sexual harassment, understood as "repeatedly claiming favours of a sexual nature in the context of a working or similar relation, if through this the victim has been intimidated or put in a humiliating situation" (art. 223(1)).

A written referral (or complaint) to the employer

Employers are required by law to take measures to prevent and combat workplace harassment.

According to the law, employers need to provide confidential and efficient mechanisms for the reporting and resolving of harassment complaints to their employees. Find out what these mechanisms are in the company or organisation that you work for and follow the reporting procedure. It is recommended that the referral be made in writing, following, if possible, the official communication channels, so as to have a clear history of the complaint and its resolution (or lack thereof).

If the complain was not efficiently resolved, in due time, or you have doubts as to the just application of the complaint and/or settlement procedure provided by your employer, you can make a complaint to the Territorial Labour Inspectorate.

Petition to the Territorial Labour Inspectorate (TLI)

In each county, and in the Bucharest municipality, there is a Territorial Labour Inspectorate which controls the application/implementation of statutory reglementations and can sanction employers that do not respect legal provisions.

If employers do not fulfill their obligations to prevent and combat workplace harassment, they can be fined. It is recommended that the petition is sent in writing through the Labour Inspection platform or sent by email (see a complaint model here) so that it can be officially recorded (save the registration number).

If you wish to personally make the complaint at the TLI office, prepare a written history of the acts of harassment and, eventually, of the steps you've taken to challenge the acts of workplace harassment. Make sure that you receive a registration order for your petition. The petition cannot be anonymous, but you can ask the TLI inspectors to maintain your anonimity when addressing the employer complained against.

Petition to the National Council for Combating Discrimination (NCCD)

The National Council for Combating Discrimination can sanction employers or certain people when it is notified about acts of harassment. The sanctions can consist of warnings or fines.

For the petition to the NCCD to be admitted it is important to show that the harassment manifested as a form of discrimination, on the basis of a protected criterion identified in Ordinance no. 137/2000 on the prevention and sanction of all forms of discrimination (art. 2(5[1])).

The petition can be submitted on the NCCD site within a year of the day the act of discrimination/harassment took place or the date you became aware of it. The petition cannot be anonymous. NCCD can sanction the employer through contraventions but it cannot eliminate the consequences of discriminatory acts (such as salary payment, rehiring in case of unfair firing or the cancelling of an unjust report to the disciplinary comission).

These things can be requested only in a court of law. For a NCCD notice there is no need of a lawyer.

Complaint to a court of law

For the protection of your rights, like in cases of workplace harassment, you can notice the court with a summons application against your employer or the harassing person. Litigations in matters of labour rights are extempt from stamp duty. Unlike the TLI or NCCD, in the case of a violation of rights notice, civil courts can pay damages to victims for moral emotional distress suffered as a consequence of harassment.

In the case that you are unable to meet the costs brought about by the initiating and supporting of a civil trial, you can request legal aid for the payment of attorney or transator/interpretor fees used in the trial process, within the conditions of the Government Emergency Ordonance no. 51/2008 on public legal aid in civil matters. The sum of this aid is limited (art. 7).

Only the people that have their domicile or habitual residence in Romania (or in another member state of the European Union) and whose monthly net average income per family member is bellow 600 RON, in the last two months before the request submission, can benefit from public legal aid (art. 8, see request for public legal aid here).

Criminal complaint

Regardless of the means you wish to take to challenge acts of harassment, it is recommended to gather evidence of the acts of harassment. These can vary from screenshots of messages or emails and recordings to the history of requests to stop the harassment (to the harasser and/or employer), medical letters (in the case where the harassment caused damage to your mental or physical health) or witness statements.

Try finding someone you trust to whom you can relate your experiences.

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