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Revista de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 0124-0064

Abstract

TORRES-TOVAR, Mauricio  and  TORRES-ECHEVERRY, Nicolás. Work and health: The constitutional court and the protection of constitutional rights in work-related accidents and illnesses. Rev. salud pública [online]. 2017, vol.19, n.6, pp.772-779. ISSN 0124-0064.  http://dx.doi.org/10.15446/rsap.v19n6.57349.

Objective

To describe the way in which the Constitutional Court of Colombia has interpreted the use of the writ for the protection of constitutional rights in work-related illnesses. The paper explains in which cases the court has defended the use of this action and the key judicial precedents on the subject.

Method

Analysis of a representative sample of the decisions of the Constitutional Court regarding writs for the protection of constitutional rights in work-related illnesses between 1992 and 2014. We coded 58 rulings, providing descriptive statistics and analyzing the main judicial precedents.

Results

The Court has assumed a protectionist position in support of workers. In 79.3 % of the cases, the Court revoked the decisions of lower courts and granted the action to employees. The Court has defended that employers cannot dismiss workers who suffered from a labor accident or illness without approval from the labor office; these workers have to be reincorporated and relocated, if needed, in a new working place. The Court has also stated that workers do not have to bear the uncertainty of not knowing which entity should cover their health and economic costs during recovery; health promoting companies (EPS, the Spanish acronym) or occupational risk managers (ARL, the Spanish acronym) should cover these costs while courts have a definite ruling.

Discussion

The institutional structure of labor risks in which EPS takes-over sicknesses and accidents from a common origin, and ARL the ones from a labor origin, incentivize EPS and ARL rejection of the services and, therefore, the use of the legal action of writ for the protection of constitutional rights. In spite of the clarity of judicial precedents, the same judicial controversies keep re-emerging, and lower courts continue to fail to comply with the precedents established by the Court.

Keywords : Occupational risks; health, work; occupational health; right to health; legal actions; jurisprudence (source: MeSH).

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