Bill to punish mopping advances in legislature

A bill reported out favorably by a legislative committee Tuesday would give additional rights to employees in an effort to prevent workplace harassment.

The bill defines as harassment restrictions on the autonomy of workers and unjustified pressure by a manager for the completion of assigned tasks.

Also defined as harassment are unjust or negative criticism of performance and assigning jobs that are below or above the employee’s abilities. Harassment also would be reducing the workspace allocated to the employee or even failing to assign work normally done by the employee.

As always there is a lot of wiggle room in the broadly drafted bill, but the goal is to prevent what is known as mopping or bullying in the workplace.

The favorable report came from the Comisión Permanente Ordinaria de Asuntos Jurídicos, which would give labor court judges considerable power to remedy what they saw as violations of this law. And even though there is an active labor court case, the self-described victim would be able to institute a criminal case.

The proposed law, No. 18.140, also prohibits what appears to be eavesdropping on the communication methods used by an employee and any invasion into the individual’s private life.

In all, there are 16 specific acts that are forbidden, and employers are responsible for actions by other employees, too.

The measure is rooted in the section of the Costa Rican Constitution that provides for the right to work. The measure also is rooted in the work of  psychologist  Heinz Leymann whowrote extensively on mobbing, a term he coined.

The term covers all sorts of negative activities at work, including rumor, bullying, humiliation and isolation. When confronted with such a complaint, an employer is obligated to set up a three-person investigating committee of employees.

A summary of the legislative actions released Tuesday noted that the bill also would include public employees.

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