23 de Noviembre del 2018


By Irina Arguedas Calvo - Associate LatamLex Costa Rica (iarguedas@latamlex.com)

Workplace harassment, also known as “mobbing” called such because it comes from the English verb “to mob” which means to “attack, mistreat, runover, besiege,” was defined by the International Work Organization as (IWT) as  “the verbal or psychological action of systematic character, repeated or persistent by which, in the workplace or place connected with it, a group of persons hurts, humiliates, offends, or intimidates a victim.It is normally done in an undercover manner with the objective of producing fear, contempt, or discouragement in the victim so they may resign or be fired. It can occur in both horizontal or vertical fashion, in the first case, between colleagues with the same level of hierarchy, and in the second case from supervisors or managers to their subordinates.

This conduct can create psychological or psychiatric problems for the victim such as anxiety, depression, paranoia, stress, discouragement, aggression, irritability, insecurity, and increased occupational incapacity. In some cases, if the victim does not discuss the situation there may be a misdiagnosis.

The consequences for the employer can vary, in a labor proceeding, if this conduct can be proven, it would generate damages in the form of payment for indemnification for the moral pain inflicted, for example, in sentences dictated by the Second Room of the Supreme Court of Justice those convicted have been made to pay between a million and five million colones between 2012 and 2013.

Not all cases can be considered harassment on behalf of the employer, often times it can be confused with the power of review and company management, which is legitimate as such. The Second Room has indicated that “the line that separates workplace harassment and the power of management can be on occasion very tenuous.” For this reason, there are cases in which an employee with low job performance may allege that they are the victim of harassment, which has no basis. It is important to indicate that professional stress or conflictive workplace situations such as jokes or mocking do not constitute workplace harassment if they are isolated events, it is necessary to prove repetition in order for the company to initiate an investigation.

What happens when these situations occur in a company? For employers it is important to establish how situations of this type will be dealt with, as the old saying indicates “it is better to prevent than regret.”


  1. Establish, within the work regulations a chapter regarding processing, investigation, and sanctions related to practices of this type. It is suggested to create an impartial committee as the entity assigned to process the complaint.

  2. Develop internal training programs for all personnel in which the details of what constitutes workplace harassment are explained, the consequences, and the measures to be taken by the company to deal with it.

  3. Proportionally and efficiently sanction any persons incurring in such behavior.

Finally, when it comes to companies with a small number of employees and it is the employer who commits these acts, the employee can seek justice by denouncing the behavior before the Ministry of Labor and Social Security in the courts of justice.