By: Carlos Rodríguez
Equality of opportunity in employment and occupation, and non-discrimination, have undoubtedly been enshrined as a Fundamental Labor Right recognized in the International Conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and in the legal framework of each country from its own Constitution as Primary Law. In countries such as El Salvador in recent years, there have been several legal reforms to regulate the issue more specifically and also the labor authorities have adopted more vigilant and supervisory criteria for behaviors that directly or indirectly violate this important right, although it cannot be denied that in practice it is still a pending issue to be consolidated.
Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of El Salvador enshrine the right to work and to equality and non-discrimination. ILO Convention 111 concerning Discrimination in Respect of Employment and Occupation, ratified by El Salvador since 1995, emphatically prohibits any distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, color, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin that has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment and occupation; which should cover not only existing labor relations, but also personnel selection procedures.
In recent years, the Labor Code has been reformed in the section on prohibitions to employers, in order to expressly emphasize that it is prohibited to demand a test to prove pregnancy or HIV testing as a requirement for hiring, as well as to make by direct or indirect means any distinction, exclusion and/or restriction among workers, because of these conditions; on the other hand, discrimination in the workplace is included as a crime in the Penal Code.
Asimismo se han incorporado otras prohibiciones en el Instructivo del Ministerio de Trabajo para la formulación de Reglamentos Internos de Trabajo, cuya inclusión se ha vuelto requisito condicionante para su aprobación y vigencia. Entre estas prohibiciones, varias orientadas a la protección de la mujer trabajadora, están: Ejecutar actos o expresiones que dañen la moral y la dignidad de otras personas; burlarse, desacreditar, degradar o aislar a las mujeres dentro de sus ámbitos de trabajo; utilizar como requisito de contratación laboral o como causal de despido justificado, el historial crediticio de los trabajadores; elaborar, publicar, difundir o transmitir por cualquier medio, imágenes o mensajes visuales, audiovisuales, multimedia o plataforma informática con contenido de odio o menosprecio hacia las trabajadoras; despedir trabajadores o tomar cualquier otra represalia contra ellos, con el propósito de impedirles demandar el auxilio de las autoridades encargadas de velar por el cumplimiento y aplicación de las leyes laborales; consignar como requisitos de contratación requisitos vinculados a edad, impedimentos de contratación por vínculos familiares con trabajadores de la empresa, así como perfiles laborales que requieran ser hombre o mujer para ocupar un cargo vacante y por otra parte incluir medidas que puedan excluir o restringir la contratación de personas basada en su identidad de género y/o orientación sexual.
En el mismo sentido, se incorpora la obligación de los empleadores de adoptar dentro de sus procedimientos de selección todas las medidas necesarias a fin de garantizar la igualdad de contratación y acceso al empleo de los Empleados y Empleadas, así como de aquellas personas pertenecientes a poblaciones indígenas. Por tal motivo los aspectos identidad de género, orientación sexual y etnicidad, discapacidad entre otros; son aspectos que son muy sensibles cuando se pide completar encuestas o cuestionarios en las empresas, ya que un trabajador que completa el cuestionario podría considerar que ha sido sujeto de un acto discriminatorio de parte de la empresa por el tipo de información que ha compartido. Por lo anterior, es recomendable que este tipo de herramientas, de ser posible sean anónimas, además de recomendar que las respuestas sean de llenado voluntario y no obligatorio; y de ser posible en la introducción se incluya que el objetivo de este tipo de herramientas, es poder fortalecer los mecanismos de protección e inclusión de los trabajadores y prevenir la discriminación en todas sus manifestaciones y por tanto no conllevará ningún tipo de represaría o afectación llenarlo o no hacerlo.
In the same sense, specifically in relation to equal pay for workers in equal circumstances, Decree 407 was enacted, which reformed the Labor Code, reaffirmed the aforementioned principle by including people with disabilities and emphasizing this equality from the personnel selection processes, in addition to promoting equitable processes that allow professional development and promotions under equal conditions, increasing fines for non-compliance.
On the other hand, it should be noted that the Occupational Safety Legislation also includes provisions to prevent and combat labor discrimination, configuring it as a Psychosocial Risk, which is one linked to aspects of the conception and organization of work, which can cause social or psychological damage to workers. Intervention against psychosocial risks must have the same characteristics as intervention against other occupational risks. Taking into account the special gravity and repercussions on the dignity and privacy of the victim, the company must establish specific procedures for the prevention of discrimination and to channel the complaints or claims, which may be made by those who have been subjected to the same.
The existence of psychosocial problems such as discrimination within an organization is evidenced by various indicators: abnormally high levels of absenteeism, staff turnover or accident rates, or significant increases thereof, among others, which are reliable indicators of an inadequate psychosocial environment or a deterioration thereof. In this sense, it is important to highlight the approach that the Law on Risk Prevention and its Management Regulations take to this issue, with an eminently preventive approach in order to introduce in companies the culture of prevention of this type of risk, which is so frequent nowadays. It cannot be denied that one of the most complicated aspects regarding this type of risks is that the cause and effect relationship is more difficult to determine than in the case of mechanical, chemical, biological and physical risks.
The aforementioned Law and its Management Regulations require that the Risk Prevention Management Program include a tenth element called: Preventive and awareness programs on psychosocial risks, which must include educational actions with the participation of a person knowledgeable on the subject, which contribute to the development of an organizational culture based on the human being, in order to favor a healthy work environment, in addition to establishing a mechanism for research and early detection of this type of risks.
This Psychosocial Risks program, which every company must have in writing and apply in practice, can be summarized as follows:
-Educational Actions for the prevention of these risks (Awareness Talks and Trainings).
-Measures for the early detection of these risks (e.g.: Organizational Climate Test or other Psychosocial Risk Assessment Methods, as well as Policies for the Prevention of Discrimination and other psychosocial risks).
For this reason, companies must be proactive and work to apply these programs effectively, since if they demonstrate that they have tools such as organizational climate tests and, above all, internal policies or protocols for action in cases of psychosocial risks, and that the workers are aware of them and that the cases reported have been duly followed up, it is very likely that the company will be exonerated from liability in the framework of inspection procedures.
It is important to emphasize that the Labor Inspection verifies compliance with this issue, and when the complaints are related to discrimination, the Ministry of Labor is usually more agile in its response times, leaving shorter terms than the maximum term of 15 working days, if an infraction is found and if in the re-inspection, the company does not comply, a Sanctioning Procedure is initiated. It is also important to mention that for these cases, the inspection takes as an important evidence of compliance or non-compliance, interviews with other workers; when, upon talking with them, the acts denounced are not evidenced, the file is archived, on the other hand, when they state that these acts have occurred in many cases infractions are indicated; unless, as we have already mentioned, the company demonstrates that it has applied investigation mechanisms on facts denounced or that the company has been informed of them.
In spite of the above, no reforms have been introduced to the inspection procedure of the Law of the Ministry of Labor (LOFSTPS), so sanctions are always imposed on the employer, even if it is a company, and not on the natural person who has committed discriminatory acts, which can be seen as unfair, but it has helped companies to work more on mechanisms to prevent and combat this type of psychosocial risks, and it may also be a factor that begins to lay the foundations for a Culture of Equal Opportunity and dignified treatment in labor relations within the work environment.