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When your boss plays foul

28.01.2008
Źródło: Dodatek Praca 7/2007

logo Dodatku Praca„Warehouse work, 12 hours a day, no overtime pay, vacation in November (maybe). Net pay 600 zloty”. Does a job offer like this seem appealing?

That is sometimes the reality behind employer's promises of „an attractive salary and opportunities for occupational development”. How can we defend ourselves against a boss who does not play fair?

The employer is always in favourable position and although the shortage of workforce has slightly improved the situation many employers still tend to abuse their employees' rights. Disabled workers  must be especially careful as they have more rights and privileges that they must defend.

Tempting privileges
Impaired workers are very often made to work longer than the statutory 7 hours a day and are  allowed to take a vacation only if it's convenient for the company. Sometimes a candidate works  for a test period and once the task is finished he or she is dismissed without any explanation or even a remuneration.

It is not uncommon for a disabled worker to be transferred to a post that has not been approved by the Occupational Safety and Health specialist or to be hired as able-bodied so that the company may avoid additional responsibilities. Another common practice is hiring impaired workers without a contract so that they don't have to renounce the pension. If the worker tries to protest the answer is usually: “You are lucky to have a job at all”. This may be true but is this reason enough to be exploited?

grafika: ślepa Temida
Ilustr.: B. Przybyszewski

Fight for your right
Here is some advice on how to deal with a dishonest employer

- Talking things over
Try to negotiate with your boss first. If it doesn't work, more radical steps are called for.

- Sack your boss
According to the Art. 55 of the Labour Code the employee whose rights were violated has the right to “sack” his or her boss, that is to cancel the contract without notice. Moreover, the employee is entitled to a compensation for the notice period stated in the contract. However, the worker ought to have some proof of the infringement of his or her rights. It is also advisable to consult a specialist, for example an inspector from the Labour Inspectorate.

- National Labour Inspectorate (NLI)
NLI centres, which can be found in every large city, provide free advice on matters concerning Labour Code. The list of these centres along with their exact location and phone number can be found at www.pip.gov.pl. Even though Labour Inspectors can intervene only in case of Health and Safety Regulations violation (e.g. lack of proper ventilation, poor lightning, etc.), their opinion can serve as evidence in court.

- Labour court
Wronged worker's last resort. The case is usually dealt with by a court of law in the employer's court district. The employee does not pay the costs of the proceedings in the first instance court if the compensation is less than 50 thousand zloty (otherwise it is 5% of the adjudged compensation). However, if the court rules against the complainant, he or she may be ordered to pay the costs. The petition must include: complainant's personal data, details of the company, a list of grievances, a brief account of the circumstances that led to the problem and a summary of the worker's job history in a given company. Both sides may appeal against the court's decision or reach a settlement. An employee may ask NLI inspectors' help in filling the petition.

Labour Court is a good way of asserting your rights, providing that you manage to produce solid evidence. On the other hand, legal proceedings may take very long and it is likely that you will be forced to look for another job, which is today scarce. So is it worth all the trouble? What's the point in standing your ground if you can't change your boss' ways?

Three rules
The aim of the following rules is not to convert a dishonest employer and make him or her a paragon of virtue but to ensure that your rights will not be violated.

I. Don't take his word for it
Sign a contract first. Don't let your boss fob you off with idle promises. Remember that no contract means no test period.
II. Read before you sign
Some people get so excited when they finally manage to find an employment that they don't even bother to read what they are signing. Employer's promises and assurances don't mean a thing, what's important is what was written down.
III. Gather evidence

Once you realise that your boss is treating you unfairly start gathering evidence which might later prove useful in court: an email that was sent after working hours, a copy of a receipt for tanking up company car on holiday etc. If you work nine to five and have casual work contract instead of employment agreement, then your time card is also a piece of evidence. If the employer “accidentally” misplaces your time card don't worry – it only undermines his credibility.  Evidence is all the more important since you probably won't be able to rely on your colleagues' testimony as they might refuse to testify against their employer.

Józef Fiołek, Senior Labour Inspector, Warsaw Labour Inspectorate:
- An employee whose rights are not respected should immediately terminate the contract or, if in possession of sufficient evidence, take the employer to the court (c.f. Art. 242 of the Labour Code). It is advisable to start gathering evidence well before taking legal action because the judge will base the decision solely on the material evidence provided by the complainant. Surreptitious gathering of evidence can be regarded as spying and may to some seem unnatural, but it is the only way of dealing with dishonest employers.

*****

Artykuł powstał w ramach projektu "Integracja - Praca. Wydawnicza kampania informacyjno-promocyjna"
współfinansowanego z Europejskiego Funduszu Społecznego w ramach Sektorowego Programu Operacyjnego Rozwój Zasobów Ludzkich.

Autor: Tomasz Przybyszewski
Konsultacja merytoryczna: Anita Siemaszko
Tłumaczenie: Michał Landsberger

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