In the Emirates, the responsibility rests with the employer to furnish a secure and suitable work environment for their staff.
Question: I am a woman working in a firm in Dubai. What constitutes inappropriate behaviour at the workplace and is there a law against it? I have a male colleague who gets uncomfortably close to me in the office. He has not made sexual advances or molested me, but I find his proximity very uncomfortable. How do I raise this issue without creating a ruckus or a case?
Answer: Pursuant to your queries, it is assumed that you are employed by an employer located in the mainland of Dubai. Therefore, the provisions of Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 on the Regulation of Employment Relations, Cabinet Resolution No. 1 of 2022 on the Implementation of Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 Regarding the Regulation of Employment Relations and Federal Decree Law No. 31 of 2021 on the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law are applicable.
In the UAE, it is the obligation of the employer to provide a safe and appropriate working environment to its employees. This is in accordance with Article 13(13) of the Employment Law, which states
"The Employer Shall provide a safe and appropriate working environment."
Furthermore, it is illegal to harass an individual verbally, physically, and sexually in the UAE. This is in accordance with Article 14(2) of the Employment Law and Article 413 of the UAE Penal Law.
The law states that
“It shall be prohibited to exercise sexual harassment, bullying or any verbal, physical or mental violence against the employee by his/her employer, manager or co-employees.”
Article 413 of the UAE Penal Law says:
“Any person who commits a sexual harassment crime, shall be liable to a jail sentence for a period not less than one (1) year and a fine not less than Dh10,000 or either one of these two penalties.”
The law also states that it
“Shall be considered to be sexual harassment any persistent behaviour to annoy the victim by actions, words or signs, against the decency done repeatedly so as to induce him to respond to his own sexual desires or the sexual desires of others…”
It is the responsibility of an employee to behave well in his or her office. This is in accordance with Article 16(2) of the Employment Law, which states,
“The employee shall display good behaviour and conduct and observe professional honesty and integrity."
Based on the aforementioned provisions of law, you may personally inform him to refrain from coming close to you and the seriousness of his inappropriate behaviour which is a criminal offence in the UAE as per the provisions of UAE Penal Law.
If your male colleague continues to behave inappropriately with you, then you may file a complaint with your employer against the said colleague and request your employer to warn him by issuing a warning letter or a show cause letter. Your employer, based on your complaint, may initiate disciplinary actions against the said male colleague by issuing a warning, issuing a show cause notice and conducting an internal investigation of his inappropriate behaviour towards you. The said investigation should be in writing. This is in accordance with Article 39 of the Employment Law read with Article 24 of the Cabinet Resolution No. 1 of 2022.
Thereafter, if became evident from the outcome of the investigation that your male colleague was guilty of behaving inappropriately with you, then your employer may terminate his employment, without serving a notice period. This is in accordance with Article 44(7) of the Employment Law.
Furthermore, you may also consider filing a criminal complaint with the Dubai Police if your male colleague continues to behave inappropriately with you despite your and your employer’s warning to him. This is under Article 411, Article 412(1) and the aforementioned Article 413 of the UAE Penal Law.
News Source: Khaleej Times