BlogEntrepreneurship & BusinessLegal ResourcesA Vigorous Business Starts by Legally-Informed Employers: How to Establish an Harassment-Free Workplace

August 18, 20210

Constrained by a pandemic and post-pandemic reality, working conditions are a new challenge for both the employer and the employee. Businesses nowadays are looking for the most efficient ways of improving the working environment, which prohibit employee‘s’ burnout. More than a medical condition, burnout is a syndrome induced by stress in the workplace. 

What can cause stress at work? A variety of situations. One in particular is harassment in the workplace.  To provide a better understanding of its legal context, this blog takes a look at the Albanian legislation and the latest Convention on Violence and Harassment adopted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2019. 

The Albanian Legal Framework

Harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace – whether exercised by the employer or other employers – affect the personality of the employee

Under Albanian law, the employer is obliged to protect and respect  the wellbeing of the employee. His/ her conduct in this regard should be manifested in two forms: passively and actively. Which means that:

  • The employer should refrain from any actions which might affect the employee’s personality and health (the mental and physical one). 
  • The employer should take all the necessary measures to stop any illegal behavior performed by other employees towards any employee. 

Harassment is any action which:

  •  Degrades the working conditions
  • Violates the rights and dignity of the employee
  • Harms the physical or mental health of the employee, or
  • Might damage the employee’s professional future.

Sexual harassment – different from the abovementioned example – is an intended action of a ‘sexual nature’. 

 As an unwanted form of behavior which violates personal dignity, it can be expressed in:

  • Words
  • Actions
  • Implied actions 

Harassment of a sexual nature creates a threatening , hostile, humiliating, contemptuous, and/ or offensive working environment. 

Therefore, the employer should always be vigilant on establishing a harassment -free working environment. He/ she can adopt various techniques, in accordance with the business’s and employer’s needs, however the Albanian Labor Code requires the adoption of:

  • Previsions on moral and sexual harassment, and
  • Make visible the relevant sanctions in the spaces of the working place. 

Furthermore, the employer is required to make available to the employees:

  • The Labor Code, and
  • Any other law which governs their contractual relationship.

Sexual Harassment is a criminal act sanctioned to imprisonment up to 5 years. However, the Albanian Criminal Code has no ad hoc provision on sanctioning sexual harassment in the work place. To fix this legal vacuum, the People’s Advocate has proposed the amendment of the Criminal Code in order to sanction the harassment and sexual harassment in the working place. Nevertheless, no action is taken by the Assembly of the Republic of Albania to date. 

As can be seen from the Albanian legal context, there are quite a few number of articles referring the harassment and sexual harassment. On the other hand, the judicial practice is unfurnished in such cases. Putting this aside – if there are no reported and adjudicated cases of harassment and sexual harassment in the working place which establish an existing practice – how can the employees be protected? By being informed! 

A new Convention on Violence and Harassment 

ILO’s new Convention on Violence and Harassment (the Convention) filled a gap in international legal standards. At its core stand human rights and dignity. For the first time, an international instrument recognizes violence and harassment as human rights violations. 

The Convention extends its scope of protection and addresses violence and harassment that are exhibited in the private or public sector, both in the formal and informal economy. Regardless of its gender-based perspective, ILO encourages the signatory member states to implement non- discriminatory measures in their national laws. 

Through the adoption of this Convention, the ILO aspires “A world of work free from violence and harassment, where the right of everyone is respected, promoted and realized”.

What can be done?

  • Leadership has to be supportive:  Any founder, CEO, or whatever the title might be, should demonstrate supportive and rigorous attitude on condemning any acts of harassment or sexual harassment. 
  • Reporting of any cases of harassment: Any employee who identifies, or possesses information from any employee who may have had a violation of his/ her rights, should immediately notify the employer, or (when the person to whom the violation is addressed is the employer him/herself) the relevant structures within the working environment (such as Human Resources Departments) .
  • Prove the opposite: Employees who  complain of being harassed must present facts. The addressed person – whether the employer or another employee in the workplace – should provide  evidence to prove the contrary, hence that the situation of harassment has not happened. 
  • Non-discriminatory legislation: The employer should inform the employee of his/her rights -especially on the non-discriminatory protection provided by the Labor Code. 

The employer must inform the employees  that all the measures taken in the working environment are in compliance with the laws:

A healthy workplace, apart from being an indicator of the organizational culture, establishes the premises for a business stability in the market. Therefore, a legally-informed management is the foundation of a vigorous workplace.

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