As lawyers with expertise in Labour Law, we have seen over the past decade an increase and a prevalence of procedures for fundamental rights breaches, which originally were employed when the rights to freedom of association were breached and, currently, they have become a frequent plead before the labour court, where an additional and independent compensation from the one established on the Spanish Workers’ Statute is requested according to the kind of case under judgement (dismissal, agreement termination due to the employer’s default, etc.)
Thus, at BELZUZ ABOGADOS’s Labour Law Department, through this article, we intend to create some clarity regarding the issue of the value of the compensation for moral damages in the labour field, since, as recognized by the Supreme Court, there has not been a desirable consistency in its doctrine.
The legal base of compensations for breaching fundamental rights is established in article 183 of the Spanish Labour Court Rules Code (LRJS, in Spanish), which states that, when the judgement concludes that there is a breach of a fundamental right, the judge shall rule upon the compensation amount corresponding to the plaintiff that has experienced the breach of a fundamental right, depending on the moral damage arising from such a breach, as well as from other additional damages incurred.
In other words, in any kind of case where the breach of a fundamental right is proved, the accumulation and further request for a compensation are possible.
Firstly, it is appropriate to clarify that the compensation provided for in article 183 of LRJS, not only comprises the moral damage but also any other damages suffered arising from the breach of the fundamental right, although, regarding the latter, a justification and proof shall be required on enough supporting evidence or objective elements in order to quantify them.
Secondly, and regarding the specific moral damages, the High Court established that due to the challenge of justifying and proving the basis of quantification, quantification criteria should be “made more flexible”, since the logical deduction is that a breach of a fundamental right necessarily leads to a moral damage, and it is difficult to obtain a detailed estimate.
From that “more flexible” criterium, the High Court overturns a judgment of the High Court of Galicia where a conviction for moral damage was dismissed claiming that the compensation for moral damage was not automatic and the lawsuit lacked the rules, elements and objective supporting points that allow quantifying the moral damage.
Albeit this flexibility stance on moral damages quantification does not release from complying with the necessary procedural requirements for their claim, such as the clear statement of the constituent facts of the breach, the infringed right or freedom, as well as the amount of the intended compensation.
In the case of moral damages, the proof of the exact amount is difficult or costly, therefore, the High Court recognises the references to the Labour Infringements and Penalties Law (LISOS, in Spanish) as a guideline to set the amount of the intended compensation (Judgements of 5 October 2017 and other of 15/02/2012, 08/07/2014), as the Constitutional Court has also recognised (STC 247/2006).
Having established the LISOS that breaching fundamental rights constitutes a serious infringement with fines from 6,251 Euros to 187,515 Euros, these parameters may be used as guideline to quantify the requested compensation.
The Court also reminds that the specific fixing of the compensation amount must be reasonably done by the first instance judge, and such a valuation may only be corrected by plea or review of cassation when it is exorbitant, unjust, disproportionate, and unreasonable.
To sum up, at BELZUZ ABOGADOS, we deem essential for this kind of compensations to judicially thrive that a correct valuation and quantification is made in accordance with the aforementioned High Court doctrine.
Workers must obtain appropriate counselling regarding this issue since the generalisation and abuse of this kind of claims is resulting in these claims not thriving in many occasions. Similarly, the companies sued with this kind of claims should obtain the timely and appropriate advice for their defence because, as stated above, many judicial requests lack the case law needed to thrive.
Belzuz Abogados SLP
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