Legal Consequences for Tenerife’s Social and Healthcare Institution and Manager for Workplace and Sexual Misconduct towards Nursing Assistant

The Social Department of the Higher Court of Justice of the Canary Islands (TSJC) has issued a ruling against the Insular Institute of Social and Socio-Sanitary Care (IASS) of Tenerife and one of its superiors, ordering them to pay 20,000 euros to a nursing assistant who reported experiencing sexual harassment and labour exploitation.

The employee, who was stationed in one of the organisation’s facilities under the Tenerife Cabildo, shared her ordeal of facing a superior with “harassment” behaviours that compromised her “dignity and created a degrading work environment.”

Initially, a case was dismissed, deeming it as a mere labour dispute. Unsatisfied, the worker turned to the court, which ruled in her favour in both the initial and subsequent hearings.

During the testimonial phase, colleagues of the victim attested that the supervisor would persistently keep an eye on her, trailing her through corridors, inquiring about her whereabouts, using the PA system to call her for no reason, and even attempting to enter the bathroom with her on one occasion.

The defendant would issue commands loudly, make inappropriate comments like “you look so good,” “you’re pretty,” complimenting her lip colour or breast size, and perform indecent acts in her presence.

The employee sought psychological therapy due to feeling hyper-alert, experiencing home dwelling, anticipating adverse situations, significant weight loss, poor sleep, intimidation, anxiety, and fear induced by the supervisor’s actions.

Meanwhile, the worker faced a disciplinary inquiry for reported tardiness, failure to clock in or frequent lateness, untimely shifts, lack of discipline and disrespect towards colleagues. The accused claimed to have rectified these behaviours.

Witnesses confirmed no regulation on shift changes, with arrangements made among workers despite warnings. They received a ten-day suspension without pay for defying COVID-19 testing.

The TSJC noted the absence of a workplace harassment policy within the IASS at that time and stated no formal grievance was ever lodged by the worker.

The judgement lamented the lack of a harassment prevention mechanism and criticised the informative approach taken by the management, as the victim provided specific incidents which were corroborated by her colleagues.

Therefore, the ruling in the latest hearing unequivocally declares the situation as meeting all criteria for considering it as both labour and sexual harassment, rather than a mere work dispute, labelling the accused’s behaviour as “wholly inappropriate.”

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