Judgment No. 2706
1. The decision of the Director General of WIPO of 11 August 2006, as clarified on 12 October 2006, is set aside.
2. The Organization shall, within six months from the date of delivery of this judgment, review the classification of the post and the complainant's application for promotion, as specified in consideration 15.
3. If appropriate, WIPO shall promote the complainant, retroactively if need be, in accordance with the terms set forth in that consideration.
4. It shall pay the complainant the sum of 40,000 Swiss francs in compensation for all the injuries suffered.
5. It shall also pay her costs in the amount of 7,000 francs.
6. All other claims are dismissed.
The complainant having reported that she had been sexually harassed by her supervisor, the latter was verbally reprimanded. The Organization asserts that the complainant has failed to discharge the burden of proof with respect to her allegations of harassment. "[I]n imposing a disciplinary sanction on the complainant's supervisor on account of these acts of sexual harassment, the Organization necessarily acknowledged that they had occurred. Consequently, it cannot now dispute the merits of the complainant's accusations in this respect without completely contradicting itself and casting major doubts on whether its own decisions regarding its staff are taken in a responsible manner in such a sensitive area as that of discipline."
decision; burden of proof; lack of evidence; sex discrimination; organisation's duties; respect for dignity; supervisor; disciplinary measure; reprimand; harassment
"[A]s the Tribunal held in Judgment 2524, an international organisation has a duty to provide a safe and adequate environment for its staff."
Jugement(s) TAOIT: 2524
organisation's duties; working conditions; official
The complainant, who was sexually harassed by her supervisor, wants the Tribunal to order that she be promoted. "[T]he Organization is of course right in saying that the compensation for her injuries should not take the form of being granted a higher grade. The advancement of an official naturally obeys its own logic related to the classification of the job done and the professional merit of the person in question, which has nothing to do with the logic behind compensation for injuries which may have been caused to this person by the international organisation employing him or her."
injury; organisation; sex discrimination; organisation's duties; respect for dignity; post classification; promotion; qualifications; allowance; supervisor; compensation; definition; difference; request by a party; harassment
complaint allowed; decision quashed; sexual harassment
Contrary to the Organization’s assertions, the evidence on file shows that it has been established that the acts of sexual harassment which the complainant denounced while she was working in the Finance Division between September 2001 and March 2003 did in fact take place.
Paragraph 25 of the Appeal Board’s report indicates that the reality of these acts had been corroborated by the testimony of four other persons who were interviewed by the Board, and that it is also clearly borne out by documents placed in the personal files of the complainant and her former supervisor by the Human Resources Management Department. Moreover, in imposing a disciplinary sanction on the complainant’s supervisor on account of these acts of sexual harassment, the Organization necessarily acknowledged that they had occurred. Consequently, it cannot now dispute the merits of the complainant’s accusations in this respect without completely contradicting itself and casting major doubts on whether its own decisions regarding its staff are taken in a responsible manner in such a sensitive area as that of discipline. Given the nature and seriousness of the acts in question, the Organization’s reaction to the complainant after she had denounced this sexual harassment was not at all consonant with the duties of any international organisation towards its staff. Firstly, it must be emphasised that, as the Tribunal held in Judgment 2524, an international organisation has a duty to provide a safe and adequate environment for its staff. In the present case, the complainant was plainly not provided with such an environment during the period in which she was the victim of her supervisor’s advances. In addition, as the Tribunal pointed out in Judgments 1609 and 1875, an international organisation is liable for all the injuries caused to a staff member by their supervisor acting in the course of his or her duties, when the victim is subjected to treatment that is an affront to his or her personal and professional dignity. It must be noted that the complainant in this instance has not received any form of compensation from the Organization for the injuries caused by the acts of sexual harassment in question. Secondly, the Tribunal can only express its astonishment at the administrative action taken by the Organization in response to the denunciation of these acts. The sanction imposed on the supervisor against whom the allegations of harassment were primarily directed – which, as was stated above, was confined to a verbal reprimand and the placing of a note in his file – was clearly not commensurate with the seriousness of his misconduct. What is more, after this sanction the person in question retained his duties with no questions asked. Furthermore, the Organization does not dispute the fact that this supervisor’s performance appraisal covering the period during which he was subjected to disciplinary action was favourable in all respects, including his conduct. The Organization’s behaviour towards this official shows little regard for the duty of care that it owed to the victim of the acts of which he was accused, and the Organization’s argument that it could not have written a less favourable report without punishing the person concerned twice for the same acts bears the mark of bad faith. Lastly, the Tribunal cannot fail to be struck by the contrast between the extreme indulgence thus shown to the
complainant’s former supervisor and the rather harsh attitude adopted at the same time towards the complainant. Not only did she not receive any form of compensation, as was stated above, but after the meeting called by the
Director General on 10 March 2003 it was cavalierly decided to transfer her to another service. It was therefore she who bore the brunt of the adverse practical consequences of the situation created by the case against her supervisor. As the Tribunal stated in Judgment 2067, it is incumbent upon any international organisation to treat staff members with dignity and to avoid causing them unnecessary injury. It is clear from the foregoing that when the complainant denounced the sexual harassment of which she was the victim, WIPO failed in its duty towards a member of its staff.