According to Article 13 of the Colombian Political Constitution, each individual is born free and equal before the law. The same protection and treatment from the authorities is guaranteed. Every individual is entitled to the same rights, freedoms and opportunities without any discrimination on grounds of race among others.

Article 10 of the Colombian Labor Code, states that all employees are equal. From a labor perspective the Constitutionality Block, understood as -those rules and principles that without formally appearing in the National Constitution are used as a mechanism of control of the constitutional provisions- is essential when analyzing discriminatory conducts.

For instance Covenant C111 which was issued by the International Law Organization – ILO and has been “properly ratified” by Colombia aims at promoting equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupation, and eliminating any discrimination due to race, gender, religion among others. This Covenant constitutes a guideline to interpret and issue laws protecting the employees.

From an internal labor perspective it is worth mentioning that Colombian Courts[1] have been categorical about the right to equality of opportunities of those employees that are part of traditionally discriminated groups of society, which would be the case of an employee that belong to afro-descendant, indigenous communities among others.

There are several mechanisms to fight against race discrimination. For example, the victims have the possibility of filing a protection action called “Acción de tutela” when being discriminated in order to protect the equality in the labor environment as a fundamental right.

Furthermore and considering that discrimination in an employment environment constitutes a labor harassment conduct according to Law 1010, 2006; employees could also whistle blow race discrimination to the Labor Environment Committee; file a formal complaint to the Ministry of Labor or file a labor harassment lawsuit before a labor court.

It is worth mentioning that discrimination is a crime in Colombia; the criminal law does not distinguish discrimination in any area such as education, work etc. However, the person that commits acts of discrimination due to race can be condemned from twelve (12) to thirty-six (36) months of prison and a fine of ten (10) to fifteen (15) monthly minimum legal wages which correspond to USD 3.332 approximately.

To conclude, Colombian Law protects people who are discriminated due to their race, and provides the legal, judicial and administrative mechanisms to prevent any abuse of power when an employer decides to dismiss or disregard within an application process on grounds of race.

[1] Court Ruling T-247/10 from the Constitutional Court.

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