Ayse Melike ALPAY
Attorney at Law
13 January 2016
What is Mobbing in the Turkish Legal System?
“Mobbing” is a new concept recognized by the Turkish legal system. Literally, mobbing means bullying of an individual by a group in any context, such as a family, friends, peers, school, workplace, neighborhood, community, or online. When it occurs in the workplace it falls within the scope of the relevant labor legislation. Mobbing as a legal concept is defined by the Turkish Court of Appeals as “a psychological terror appearing as directing someone a hostile and immoral communication directed systematically from one or more persons to another”.
Is it a discrimination or violation of human dignity?
The term “mobbing” is interpreted differenly in various legal systems. The main distinction of interpretation is between the common law and civil law. In common law systems, the judicial decisions about mobbing are based on “discrimination” and “violation of equality”. In civil law systems, mobbing is interpreted as “violation of human dignity” rather than violation of equality. The common law system dignifies the “equality” between the employer and employee or between all employees. It is actually understandable when we take a look at the American history and the prior discrimination cases between the US citizens.
Mobbing is not the same as “bullying”
Another important point is to differentiate “mobbing” from “ bullying”. They have some common aspects of course, but “bullying” defines physical assault more than psychlogical harassment. Mobbing is more about the psychological terror, which is repeatedly committed by the employers or other employees. In the Turkish system, mobbing is translated as psychological harassment (psikolojik taciz) or moral and emotional harassment (manevi ve duygusal taciz).
How can we recognize a “mobbing” act?
The common trait of a mobbing act is that it does not appear out of nowhere; but it is the result of a long standing and systematic act. It is very important not to define every nervous behaviour, fight or discussion as mobbing. Mobbing requires more systematic actions rather than one wrongdoing or misbehaviour. In other words, the victim of mobbing must be harassed systematically.
The most important and significant elements of mobbing are determined by the court decisions and doctrine as follows:
1) Knowingly and intentionally engaging in mobbing,
2) Repeating the behaviour systematically,
3) Continuing same behaviour for a certain period of time (i.e at least for 6 months), and
4) Intending to distracting the employee from his work, i.e by frustrating him.
Another research attributes mobbing to the 3 parameters stated below:
1) Being exposed to negative behaviour systematically (like once in a week),
2) Being exposed to negative behaviour for a certain period of time (at least 6 months) and
3) Power inequality between the harasser and the victim. 
How does Turkish legislation define “mobbing” ?
In the Offical Gazette dated 19.03.2011 and numbered 27879, the Prime Ministry issued a circular “Prohibiting the Psychological Harassment (Mobbing) in the Workplaces” (İşyerlerinde Psikolojik Tacizin (Mobbing) Önlenmesi’ne İlişkin Başbakanlık Genelgesi). This circular defines mobbing as “…psychological harassment appears like humiliating, underrating, externalizing, injuring the honour and personality, maltreating, frustrating an employee systematically on purpose for a significant period …”.
How do Turkish Courts interpret “mobbing”?
“…as it is seen, for accepting a behaviour as psychological harassment, one employee must be targeted, the behaviour must be continuing and this situation must be systematic…”.
“ … the claimant is in psychological depression because the effects and consequences of the harassment are continuing and despite there is no negative evaluation about his performance, the performance grade was lowered after these actions…”.
In the Turkish doctrine, it is generally stated that the duration of mobbing acts must continue between 3 months to 3 years. In the comperative law, a minimum of a 6 months period of the acts are required for defining a case as “mobbing”. However, determining a concrete period is not possible and every mobbing case must be evaluated individually. The effects on the victim and the duration are determinant.
Mobbing cases find their spot on the news in the Turkish media. Lately a male associate professor in Istanbul Yıldız Technical University, brought a suit against six of his female colleagues with the claim of mobbing. He claims that he has been exposed to “psychological harassment, defamation and attrition for years” and that there is “woman staffing” in the workplace, so that the male teaching assistants are exposed to get distracted. Although there are many allegations of mobbing and cases filed in Turkish courts, in order for a mobbing case to be accepted the preconditions explained above must be present.
Mobbing is still relatively a new concept to the Turkish courts, but the courts seem to be on a correct track to establish certain pre-conditions and principles with regard to mobbing cases. However, it is worth to note that the courts generally scrutinize the mobbing claims very carefully. When it comes to compensation they tend to award compensation only in specific cases and limit the compensation at rather nominal amounts.
 Zapf, D., Einarsen, S. E., Hoel, H., & Vartia, M. (2003). Bullying and emotional abuse in the workplace. International perspectives in research and practice (pp. 103-126). London: Taylor & Francis.
Tınaz, Pınar; Gök, Sibel ve Karatuna, Işıl “Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu Çalışanlarının İşyerinde Psikolojik Taciz Algıları: Yaygınlık, Türler, Nedenler ve Bireysel Mücadele Yöntemleri”, Çalışma İlişkileri Dergisi, Ocak 2013, Cilt 4, Sayı 1, s. 40
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