Anxiety caused by workplace “banter” can be classed as workplace accident

The Superior Court of Justice of Cantabria has confirmed that the anxiety of a worker due to derogatory comments from colleagues does qualify as an accident at work.

In a recent ruling, the court supports the decision of the trial judge, who upheld the lawsuit filed by a woman who worked for the Ministry of Public Works as an operator in a seven-member crew. And dismisses the appeal filed by the Government of Cantabria.

“The ruling can help people who are in a state of weakness to obtain protection from the company and Social Security without having to face their harassers for moral damages in criminal proceedings,” says Eduardo González López, lawyer who has obtained the sentence and who considers it an important precedent.

As has been considered proven, the worker “began to receive comments unrelated to her work activity from two colleagues.” These “did not call the plaintiff by her name, as they did with the rest of the gang, but rather called her “the blonde, the officer,” says the sentence.

“I was the only woman in a masculinised company. She, and therefore, she is the only person who denounces harassment based on sex at work. In the sentence, she expressly says that on one occasion one of her workmates made a move to run her over with a steamroller, a very serious act,” denounces the lawyer.

The plaintiff, “based on the aforementioned circumstances, began to show grief, frequent lability, despair and anxiety”, and sought “psychological and psychiatric help based on these facts”.

The Government of Cantabria argued in its appeal against the sentence of the Social Court that “the worker had not been able to demonstrate that the psychological pressure she suffered derives from labour conflict.”

However, for the court, there is a relationship between his work situation and the anxiety she suffers, given “the clear link between the symptoms he presents and the labour conflict, a link that can be clearly seen in the clinical reports that are collected.”

The affected person filed a complaint with the Labour Inspection for this case. The company claimed that it did not have an equality plan in place or an anti-harassment protocol. “Now we are waiting for the announcement of the sanction, which we hope will be exemplary,” says González López.

The judgment of the Labour Chamber is not final, since an appeal for cassation before the Supreme Court can be filed against it.