The Constitution prohibits the main types of discrimination: sex; age; race or skin color; nationality; social origin; political opinions; union activity; and discrimination on the grounds of religion. The Labour Code also prohibits discrimination in the workplace, during and after the hiring phase. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against any candidate/employee during the hiring process and employment relationship for any reason, including but not limited to sex, origin, race, color, marital status, family status, disability, professional rehabilitation and age. Employers should avoid any practice, such as requesting non-pregnancy certificates from women or health certificates from employees and, in general, any practice that may imply a distinction between two or more people applying for the same job.
Protections Against Harassment
Sexual harassment in the Labour Code is contemplated only as a just cause of resignation for the employee and does not sanction the employer or the aggressor. Sexual harassment is defined as “any order, threat, constraint or offer intended to obtain favors of a sexual nature, made by a person who abuses the authority conferred by his functions.” The penalty for this offense is one year in prison and a fine of five thousand to ten thousand pesos. The law states that an employee can be terminated without any obligation to the employer, if he or she incurs sexual harassment. Companies must assume a very active role in preventing and combating sexual harassment, taking into account that it occurs within their own workspace and sphere of influence. For larger companies, we suggest establishing a written policy that explains what harassment is; that harassment will not be tolerated; and that sets out how employers and employees should respond to incidents of harassment. Anti-harassment policies should also establish a detailed mechanism by which employees can file complaints when sexual harassment occurs.
Employer’s Obligation to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
The Dominican Republic has enacted several laws designed to protect people with permanent or temporary disabilities. Likewise, the Labour Code protects disabled workers from any unfair treatment in employment, providing the right to obtain a fixed and permanent occupation equal to that of other workers. The Labour Code further provides that disabled persons shall be qualified for work based on their ability to perform the work in question, regardless of the status of their disability. People with disabilities are considered equal to the rest of the population. Although they deserve a higher level of protection against discrimination, disabled persons are not entitled to special privileges due to their condition. The Dominican State will supervise and apply the surveillance and control mechanisms necessary to guarantee compliance with current legislation and the achievement of its objectives. Therefore, employers are required to provide reasonable access to disabled employees, such as employees in wheelchairs. Dominican law also prohibits all kinds of religious discrimination. However, employers do not need to make any accommodations for different religious practices.
The employee must be in a healthy workplace where his/her fundamental rights are respected. A complaint of harassment or discrimination must be based on conduct that has caused harm to the employee. For employees who think they have been the victim of discrimination, they can contact their workplace supervisors (and the union, if any) or representatives of the employer’s human resources department. The employer should analyse the context as a whole, the facts together with the evidence, and proceed to declare if the discrimination occurred. If so, depending on the bias, the employer could terminate for cause, the employee who harassed another employee. The company could request the participation of an inspector from the Ministry of Labour, who can help carry out the investigation. Additionally, individuals can be held liable for discrimination, retaliation, harassment and a retaliation lawsuits in civil court. In some instances, such as sexual harassment, the person may also be accountable in criminal court. Sexual harassment is punishable by one year in prison and a fine of five to ten thousand pesos.