What to do if your rights as a worker are violated by your employer
If you have worked in Croatia, there is a solid chance your rights as a worker have been violated by your employer. Unfortunately, taking advantage of workers has become so commonplace, that it has been accepted by the general public as just the way it is. Workers can feel victimized, threatened or helpless in fighting back. This is unacceptable.
As an employee, you have a lot of rights and you do have recourse if an employer chooses to disregard the law. The law on labor actually heavily favors workers over employers, which is a hangover from communism. Here are 10 of the biggest rights you have as a worker.
So you know what your rights are. You think your rights have been infringed upon. What do you do about it? In this post, we’ll cover step by step what you need to do to escalate the issue, get protection, and hopefully solve the problem.
1. Inform yourself
If you think the law has been disobeyed, your first step is to find out if the incident in question is illegal. From the start, it is important to note that there are two types of violations. Depending on which bucket your situation falls into, the procedure timeline will vary. The two types of violations are:
- Discrimination and sexual harassment
- Non-payment of salary
- Everything else
Next, educate yourself to confirm that you indeed have a valid claim. You can do this in several ways:
- Read our post on worker rights to see if your issue is covered, as it all comes straight from the law on labor.
- Read the full law on labor, although there may be cases where the violation is criminal and therefore included in other parts of the law.
- Pay a visit to HZZ. This is a government advisory agency that can guide you on what your rights are and whether or not your rights have been violated. They CANNOT escalate the issue for you, they will only advise you on your rights. This service is FREE.
- Consult with a lawyer. You may be surprised at how the low the cost can be to have someone else take care of it for you. It’s free to get a quote. We can recommend a lawyer if you contact us.
2. Make it official
The next step is to formally report the issue to your employer in writing. Explain your case as well as you can. Citing specific articles in the law will only further cement your case. Make sure your letter is signed and dated.
There are two ways to deliver your letter:
- Deliver the letter in person to your employer. Ask your employer to put their official stamp on it, along with their signature, and date of receipt. If you go this route, take two copies for the employer to stamp, sign, and date, so you can keep your own original stamped copy for your records.
- Mail the letter to your employer. For this option, go to Hrvatska Pošta and ask to send your letter “preporučeno” or “preporučena pošiljka”, which means “registered mail”. If you do this, Pošta will give you a stamped receipt stating the date you sent the letter. This is considered legal proof and can be used in court, so hang on to this receipt for the duration of the process.
If your case is related to discrimination or sexual harassment, the employer has 8 days to investigate and resolve the issue. If your case falls into the “everything else” category, then the employer has 15 days to resolve the issue. If your issue is related to non-payment of salary, then you can immediately jump to the next step without notifying your employer of anything. There are no deadlines to follow in this case.
3. Get court protection
If the employer fails to respond or resolve the issue after the 8 or 15-day period, then the next step is to get protection from the municipal court (called “Opčinski Sud”). Once you file with the court, you’ll be automatically protected from retribution or being fired by your employer.
If you make it to this step, it is vital that you request court protection in a timely manner. For cases of sexual harassment and discrimination, you have 8 days from the end of the previous 8 days the employer had to respond to go to the court. As mentioned earlier in this post, if your problem is related to non-payment of salary, you can go to the court for protection at any time with no deadline. For all other cases, you have 15 days from the end of the previous 15 days your employer had to respond go to court.
After going to the court, you also have the right to stop working until the issue is resolved without being fired or punished. If you stop working without going to the court first, then your contract can be automatically terminated.
4. Report the employer
Let’s say you’ve done all the steps in the time frames dictated by the law and the employer STILL has not fixed the problem. Time to report to them.
To report an employer, contact the Državni inspektorat (Inspection of Work). This is the agency that will punish the employer if they are found guilty of violating your rights as an employee.
Once this agency gets involved, they will investigate the issue and review the case. They have the power to levy fines or other types of punishment depending on the severity of the case. During this final step, you will still be protected by the court.
Summary of deadlines
We’ve thrown a lot of deadlines at you above, so here is a summary so it’s super clear of the timeline for each type of case.
Discrimination or Sexual Harassment (8 days – 8 days – 8 days)
- You have 8 days to report the incident to your employer from the date it occurred.
- Your employer has 8 days from the date of your report to respond and resolve.
- You have 8 days from the end of the term the employer had to resolve the issue to file for court protection.
Non-payment of Salary
- There are no deadlines. You can go straight to the court for protection.
Everything Else (15 days – 15 days – 15 days)
- You have 15 days to report the incident to your employer from the date it occurred.
- Your employer has 15 days from the date of your report to respond and resolve.
- You have 15 days from the end of the term the employer had to resolve the issue to file for court protection.
Where do we go from here?
In researching this post and this other post on worker’s rights, I was flabbergasted. Over the last 8 years living in Split, I have heard endless stories of Croatian and foreign employers taking advantage of their Croatian and foreign workers. It was not until putting together these posts, that I realized how rampant the problem really is.
What saddens me the most is to see foreign employers, people who come from other countries who know they could never get away with the same type of abuse without getting sued and should therefore know better, taking advantage of workers who don’t know their rights, think they could lose their work permit or think that it will take lots of money to fight back.
Many gaslight their employees into thinking they are “family” so they should just accept working 7 days a week without a day off or getting salary three months late. You are not family. This is a purely business arrangement. Businesses hire people to do work in exchange for payment. To je to.
Complacency is not going to change anything. There are legal mechanisms in place to deal with these situations, but employees have to initiate them. Just calling the inspector anonymously is not going to get it done. Some employers pay off inspectors, so they don’t come for random inspections. You take away their power if you create a paper trail with the proper procedure and file with the court to get protection.
Yes, it’s easier with a lawyer, but it is possible to fight back and win on your own when armed with the right information.
Rise up and everyone rises together!
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.