The interviewees who took part in the project agree on the overall assessment of the negative economic and social consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace.

This phenomenon leads to deterioration of the working atmosphere and working conditions. Every worker subjected to stress caused by sexual harassment has impaired condition and work concentration, which affect both the work process and the work environment. In view of the practice of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination (CPD), it can be said that people subjected to sexual harassment often fall into depression, come to work with fear, use sick leave, work unfocused and make mistakes. All this is a consequence of the created embarrassing, humiliating or insulting situation. Recovery from such an intervention in the workplace may involve a prolonged period of rehabilitation.

All this inevitably affects the company, the victim and the insurance funds.

The consequences are both at the micro and macro levels.

In addition, violence and sexual harassment in the workplace cannot be hidden, the phenomenon destroys the company's image, and this leads to turnover and labour shortages, lower labour productivity and, consequently, loss of corporate clients and profit.

How to protect yourself?

Under Bulgarian law, sexual harassment is defined as unwanted, inappropriate, degrading or offensive sexual behaviour in the workplace with the aim or effect of creating a threatening, hostile and degrading work environment for the harassed person.

It is also defined as treating a person in a less favourable way because that person rejects or accepts acts of sexual harassment. All types of actions, verbal and non-verbal, as well as physical can be regarded as sexual harassment. Not only the physical but also the mental integrity of individuals must be protected under these rules. According to the jurisdiction, physical contact against the employee's will or repeated sexual acts, sexual jokes, pressure for sexual services or insulting offers may be considered sexual harassment.

According to the Protection against Discrimination Act (PDA), an employer who has received a complaint from an employee who considers her/himself to be subjected to harassment, including sexual harassment at the workplace, is obliged to immediately inspect the case, take measures to stop harassment, as well as impose disciplinary measures if the harassment was committed by another employee. In case of non-fulfillment of this obligation, the employer shall be liable under the PDA for acts of discrimination committed at the workplace by his/her employee.

The victim has also the right to lodge a complaint

with the Commission for Protection against Discrimination - the body responsible for preventing discrimination, protection against discrimination and ensuring equal opportunities. It is a specialized public authority which controls the application and compliance with the Law on Obligations and Contracts or other laws on equality of treatment.

The victim can also file a report to the territorial ‘Labour Inspection’ Directorate accompanied by detailed information on the case. The Law on Obligations and Contracts gives the right to the trade union organization to initiate proceedings, with a written report, before the Commission for Protection against Discrimination.

Also, the trade union organizations and their divisions, as well as non-profit legal entities for carrying out public benefit activities, may file a claim on behalf of the persons whose rights have been violated, at their request. The law gives trade unions the right to make proposals to the Commission for Protection against Discrimination in order to prevent or stop violations of this law or other laws governing equality of treatment, as well as to prevent and eliminate the harmful consequences of them and take compulsory administrative measures.

If you or an acquaintance of yours becomes a victim of sexual harassment at the workplace, do not hesitate and seek help in one of the ways listed above!

The content of this publication represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.