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News > Latin America

Brazil Judge Orders Worker to Pay $2,500 in Legal Fees on 1st Day of Labor Reforms

  • People in Brazil protest against President Michel Temer.

    People in Brazil protest against President Michel Temer. | Photo: Reuters

Published 13 November 2017

Brazilian law used to define the trajectory and time spent getting from one's residence to one's place of work as being part of the job.

Reality hit home on the first day Brazil's new labor law went into effect Saturday when a judge condemned an employee to pay legal fees amounting to roughly US$2,500 for having brought an unsuccessful case against his former employer.

Brazilian Congress Advances Bill to Gut Labor Laws

The plaintiff, seeking compensation of about US$15,000, sued her/his former employer for back pay for accrued work hours as well as having been assaulted at gunpoint shortly on his way to work.

However, Judge Jose Cairo Junior from Bahia contested that “everyday robberies are spreading throughout all economic activities” and that the firm's farming business didn't represent an increased risk of being robbed, according to Migalhas.

Based on legal dictates outlined in the new labor code, the judge ruled in favor of the employer, outright rejecting the claim of “civil responsibility on the part of the employer stemming from violent acts practiced by third parties.”

Consequently, the employee received an exorbitant fine resulting from “bad faith” litigation and associated court fees, Brasil 24/7 reported.

Prior to the reforms, Brazilian law defined the trajectory and time spent getting from one's residence to one's place of work as being incorporated into job and social security benefits. Not so anymore.

Cairo Junior concluded that the employer can't be held responsible for the increase in criminal acts in a determined locale because the situation is beyond their control.

However, workers are questioning to what extent does the new labor law contribute to unemployment, which is, inevitably, followed by spikes in crime.

Brazil Labor Reform Removes Rights Enjoyed for Decades

The reforms, proposed by Brazil's de facto President Michel Temer and supported by big business and their lobbyists alters more than a hundred clauses in Brazil's Consolidated Labor Law, which was first introduced in 1943 by President Getulio Vargas. Some of the most devastating aspects, according to lawyer Isaac Yarochewsky, include:

1. If a worker is contracted as “intermittent” (Article 443), he or she is not guaranteed the minimum wage, holidays, or a Christmas bonus.

2. Workers will no longer be able to choose which worker's union represents them. They will be obliged to accept all decisions made by arbitrarily selected unions.

3. After collective bargaining negotiations, severely weakened by the arbitrary selected of the trade union, employers will be legally allowed to eliminate previously established workers' rights.

4. If a worker's arbitrarily selected union implements a norm that is damaging to union members, then no member will have the legal right to contest the measure in court.

5. A worker's physical safety is valued in accordance with each worker's wages. In other words, if a worker suffers an accident at work, (roughly 700,000 occur each year in Brazil and even former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, lost a finger while operating heavy equipment) “your life is worth how much you earn” according to Article 223-G.

6. If a worker, for whatever reason, fails to attend a court hearing related to his or her accident, the worker will be obliged to reimburse the state for expenses incurred. He or she will also have to pay back the company's legal fees.

7. Workers who earn more than US$685 a month and are fired from their position without receiving past wages or a severance package will be required to pay their own legal fees to bring the case to the Justice Department.

8. The termination of contracts "by mutual accord" will be implemented. In other words, formal job layoffs will be a thing of the past. Workers can simply be asked to immediately leave the premises.

9. Pregnant women will not be protected against working in unhealthy environments, including working in noisy, dusty, sunny, and other harmful environments as long as a doctor authorizes it.

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