[Seoul] 794 Workplace Harassment Cases Reported After 2 Months Of New Law

Newly released government data has shown that since July, when a new law intended to prevent harassment in the workplace came into effect, just under 800 cases of workplace harassment have been reported to the labour ministry, Yonhap News Agency reports.

The data was submitted to the Environment and Labor Committee by the ministry at the National Assembly. It showed that 794 cases of various forms of harassment by superiors in the workplace were reported from July 16 to September 19, when the workplace anti-bullying law came into effect following a six-month grace period.

At the top of the list for forms of harassment was the use of abusive words, with 353 cases. Unfair treatment in personnel affairs accounted for 209 cases and bullying and backbiting had 93 reported cases.

In terms of industry, 158 cases came from workplace harassment in manufacturing, 119 cases from business facility management and 96 cases came from the health and welfare services industry.

Workplace harassment is defined as an act of incurring physical or mental suffering or a worsening of the work environment by employers or workers using their status or power to behave beyond the scope of working norms, under the new law.

Employers should immediately investigate any reported workplace harassment and take proper action, like preventing victims from working in the same place as perpetrators.

If victims or those who report abusive conduct face retaliatory or discriminatory measures, employers could receive a 3-year maximum prison term and a fine of up to 30 million won ($25,423).

Critics of the new law reportedly say it lacks effective controls on workplace harassment by not stipulating the punishment for a perpetrator. The labour ministry’s focus at present is on issuing administrative guidance to every workplace so employers are better prepared to prevent or deal with all forms of harassment.