Harassment in the Workplace: a Mexican perspective

In Mexico, just like in many other countries around the world, harassment in the workplace is a very common practice and has been, until recently, socially accepted. Something that a victim had to live with. “A matter of culture” some would say. “It happens everywhere no matter where you go” would argue others. “The price you pay for landing a job” others would admit.

And the price was and is high as a result of the very negative environment this practice generates, not only for the victim and his/her environment and workmates, but for the company where they work as a whole.

Fortunately, back in 2012 the Mexican Federal Labor Law underwent a very substantial reform and Article 3 Bis was added to include a definition of harassment in its two forms under Mexican law.

Indeed, Article 3 Bis establishes two types of harassment. The first one, as contained in subparagraph a), establishes the type of harassment where the victim is subordinated (under the command) to the aggressor. It recognizes that this unwanted, unwelcomed behavior may be perpetrated verbally, physically or both.

On the other hand, subparagraph b) establishes that sexual harassment is a form o violence where there is no subordination but rather and abusive exercise of power that leaves the victim defenseless, whether this happens once or several times.

The Federal Labor Law further establishes that an employee has the right to terminate the labor relationship if the employer, or any one of its representatives or relatives harasses him or her in the workplace or elsewhere. If not in the workplace, harassment can be legally argued if it occurrence makes it impossible for the labor relationship to continue in the regular course of business (proximity between the victim and the aggressor, subordination, necessary interaction) The same right goes to the employer in the instances in which an employee harasses just anyone in the workplace.

Employers are mandated to institute all necessary training programs, protocols and practices to eradicate this practice. Failure to do so will result in joint liability for the employer, lawsuits, sanctions and fines.

Labor leaders are also prohibited form embarking in harassment of any one of their members.

The recent enactment of the USMCA which substituted the old NAFTA as signed by Mexico, Canada and the United States has added more momentum to the subject of harassment in the workplace. Chapter 23 establishes the obligation of the Parties, as defined therein, to implement all necessary measures to eliminate this practice…….. and monitoring for compliance is underway!