“This policy promotes a culture in which psychological and sexual harassment is neither tolerated nor ignored,” Paperjam quoted an EIB spokesperson as saying.
The protocal includes three stages for handling a complaint of moral or sexual harassment.
An employee who feels harassed can contact a confidential counsellor who is part of “a network of volunteers composed of specially selected and trained colleagues who can provide assistance and support”. It is then encouraged to try to resolve issues raised with the accused person informally and bilaterally, “as far as possible [...] in an open, honest, non-contentious and non-threatening manner, making it sufficiently clear that the conduct is unwanted.”
A professional external mediator can be provided where needed to discuss the working situation at an early stage. If this measure fails, the complainant may launch a formal procedure before an “external panel of impartial experts”. The alleged victim and the alleged harasser are heard during the hearing, with the possible intervention of witnesses. The panel may also mandate an investigation (telephone and electronic communications, etc.) and call on an external expert. This procedure provides for “the safeguarding of the rights of the defence and the right to be heard as well as the effective protection of witnesses”, Paperjam quoted the EIB spokesperson. Finally, the panel submits its final report to the director of human resources.
If the facts are deemed to constitute harassment, the alleged perpetrator may be subject to disciplinary proceedings, as may the employee claiming to be the victim if the panel considers that his or her complaint is based on “vexatious, false or malicious allegations.”
2018 court ruling
The 13 July 2018 court judgment came after an EIB employee lodged a formal complaint to management regarding the behaviour of a director, under whom she had worked for two years. The victim, who had worked for the bank since 2008, accused the director of having “brutally halted her career by dismissing her without just cause from a position of responsibility, of having denigrated her, of having made inappropriate, aggressive, contemptuous and accusatory remarks, of having withheld certain information, of having failed to provide her with feedback on her professional performance and of having disadvantaged her compared to other people.”
In response, the EIB requested an apology from the director, warned of disciplinary proceedings against any further justified complaints and ordered the director undergo professional management and communication coaching. The bank was ordered to pay the victim €10,000 in damages. The court pointed out that psychological harassment consists of multiple behaviours which, in isolation, do not necessarily pose a problem.