Stalked in UAE workplace? Here’s what to do.

Employee harassment/workplace harassment and discrimination is found to be an increasingly topical issue in UAE including sex harassment. This is one of the most common complaints heard in any part of the world. Until now, there have been no free standing anti harassment law present in the UAE except for some legal provisions that can be triggered in the context of employee harassment and discrimination (including the Anti Discrimination Law (Federal Decree No. 2 of 2015)).

Things have changed. The UAE has been making significant strides to bolster its harassment laws in recent years.Formerly, the law on harassment specified that it had to have taken place publicly while the amendment made in December last year includes all forms, regardless of location.

Last December, the charge of sexual harassment was added to the country’s penal code. The legal definition of sexual harassment was expanded to include repetitive harassment through action, words or even signs that aim to coax the recipient into responding to the offender’s sexual desires — or the desires of another.

Further amendments also looked at men as potential victims not only as perpetrators and increased the penalty to a minimum of one year in prison, a fine no more than Dh10,000 or both.The legal reforms announced will greatly increase the maximum fine for sexual harassment to Dh100,000.

Workers in the UAE are protected under various provisions within UAE’s laws, including the Labour Law as well as the Federal Penal Code. Whether you are facing unfair practices at work or are worried about your safety, UAE’s authorities have also set up various support services to provide individuals with the necessary information about these laws and how they can take action to protect their rights.

What is Stalking?

Stalking can take place in many forms in the workplace. Some stalkers are
colleagues or clients of the victim, others are individuals who are unrelated to the workplace but who make contact with the victim there because of ease of access or to cause them further distress.

Types of Stalking at Workplace

Below is a table listing some of the wide-ranging behaviour victims of stalking can experience. Not all victims will experience all of these types of behaviour and they can occur at differing frequencies.

  • Nuisance telephone calls
  • Sending excessive emails
  • Being followed
  • Sending gifts or letters
  • Death threats
  • Monitoring behaviour
  • Making false complaints to
  • employers/police etc.
  • Abuse of and through social
  • networking sites
  • Criminal damage
  • Visiting home/place of work
  • Blackmail
  • Physical assault
  • Sexual assault
  • Computer hacking

Stalked in UAE workplace? Here’s what you have to do

Until recently, in theory as well as in practice, U.A.E. law hasn,t provided any form of protection from harassment or bullying. The only form of little protection available could be used for these purposes is under Article, 359 U.A.E Penal Code, which provides that “Whoever attempts to disgrace a female by words or by deeds in a public street or frequented place, shall be punished by detention for a period not exceeding one year and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand Dirhams…”

The failings are more than apparent. Firstly, this law only applies to women and does not extend to the other sex. Secondly, the law does not seem to recognize that harassment and its like may take other forms. Lastly, even though it is arguably extended to cover the workplace, this has been drafted with ambiguity.

It is inevitable that employers should be held responsible for harassing and bullying behavior. The duty imposed on the employer should of course be limited to acts of harassment or bullying which has taken place during the course of employment. Further, his or her liability should only extend to taking all reasonable precautions and/or actions which could have been reasonably been prevented in all the circumstances.

Article 53 of the UAE Labour Law states that an employer employing five or more workers shall observe the following:

Keep a personal file for each worker, mentioning the worker’s name, profession or occupation, age, nationality, address, marital status, date of employment, wage and any adjustment thereto, penalties inflicted thereupon, occupational injuries and diseases sustained thereby as well as the date of termination of service and reasons thereof.

From the aforesaid provision of the Labour Law, it is understood that the employer is under an obligation as per the UAE Labour Law to maintain records and files regarding each of his employees, including their residential address. Whereas there is no provision in the Labour Law that the employer may follow the employee to ascertain his residential address, the employer may verify the residential address, should the employee upon declaration of such residential address consent for internal or third party verification, as may be required per the due diligence or background check process subject to the internal policies of the employer.

Any behaviour that leads to harassment of an individual is dealt with strictly under the UAE’s Penal Code.

Submit a complaint to the police and accordingly the prosecution and criminal courts have the discretion to evaluate the evidence on record and deliver their decision in the matter.

Excessive annoyance of a person by repeating acts, words, signals that would molest them, for the purpose of pushing them to respond to their own sexual desires or the desires of others is a punishable offense with an imprisonment up to one year and a fine up to Dh10,000.

Consider Quitting

The UAE Labour Law has provisions for employees, who can leave a work contract in certain situations.

As per Article 121 of the UAE Labour Law, if the employer or its legal representative has assaulted the employer, the employee may leave the work without notice. When the conduct of the employer leads to the employee resigning from work, such a termination of the employment contract by the employer shall be considered wrongful termination and the employee shall be entitled to claim compensation from the employer along with end-of-service benefits.

In the event the employer refuses to make payments towards your gratuity and compensation entitlements, you may complain to the relevant Labour department and subsequently proceed with the registration of a court case before the Labour Courts to claim your entitlements.

Stalking can have a hugely detrimental impact on its victims, causing them to feel unsafe wherever they go. This can have a knock-on effect on their physical and psychological wellbeing.

It is therefore important that supervisors and managers are aware of signs to note that may identify a victim of stalking. When someone is being stalked, it is likely that causes for concern to an employer, such as increased absences, arriving late for work, or unexplained poor work performance, will begin to emerge.

Changes in a member of staff’s productivity may be caused by stalking or domestic abuse and these issues should be explored when deciding how to manage the situation. Identifying that an employee is experiencing difficulties at an early stage will enable you to offer appropriate support, this will help the victim be able to deal with their situation much more effectively.