Objectives To verify how class actions (known, in Brazil, as ‘public civil actions’), regulated in Brazilian legal system to protect diffuse, collective and homogeneous rights, are being used to protect workers’ health and safety.
Methods The author identified and evaluated decisions of Brazilian Superior Court of Labour involving collective actions and work accidents. The timeframe chosen was December 2015. The online jurisprudence database was consulted in page available for public consultation on the court website. The categorization of the data was made considering the result (court application was rejected or accepted), the request type, the amount of compensation and and the author of the cause, besides knowing the reasoning used by the judges.
Results The High Court issued 21,948 decisions in December 2015, with 1448 judgments (6.6%) about work accidents and only 20 (0.09%) on collective action. After analysing these 20 decisions, it was found that the judgments granted compensation for collective moral damage (85%) and/or obligation to make, that is, changes to improve prevention and safety (71%). The lawsuits have been brought by Unions (28%) or Labour Public Prosecutors (72%). The compensation for collective moral damage had average of 250,000 reais(about US$65,000). This is the last instance resource for this kind of lawsuit and all decisions were well founded and received partially the request made for the protection of the working environment.
Conclusions When triggered, the labour court system provides the requested collective protection in class action. The values of convictions arbitrated in collective actions are significant and indicate that it creates social and economic repercussions, stimulating employers to improve the working environment conditions of their companies. It is necessary to intensify the use of these types of action, however, because they are more efficient for prevention than reparatory individual lawsuits, but it has been underutilised, mainly by Unions.
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