Portugal's Right to Disconnect law, digital nomads and a toxic workplace history : Rough Translation When Portugal forbade bosses from contacting employees after hours, international media jumped at the chance to cover the new law. Portuguese workers were oddly quiet. Why?

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GREGORY WARNER, HOST:

Hey. Quick note before we start the show. It is the last week to fill out NPR's podcast survey and tell us how you spend time with podcasts - how many, how often, and how come. It's a short and anonymous survey at npr.org/podcastsurvey. Again, that's npr.org/podcastsurvey - all one word. Add your thoughts. And thanks.

This is ROUGH TRANSLATION from NPR. Catarina Fernandes Martins grew up in Castelo Branco. It's a small city in Portugal, about 2 hours from Lisbon.

CATARINA FERNANDES MARTINS: A place where nothing happens, like, the place that I really wanted to escape when I was growing up.

WARNER: Back then, in the 1990s, it was the kind of place where the sight of a foreigner was unusual enough to merit an article in the local newspaper. But this once sleepy city has become a destination for expats.

MARTINS: The other day when I went to the groceries and someone told me, yes, we just moved from Brooklyn, I was like, what? Brooklyn, like my dream place Brooklyn? What are you talking about? Why didn't you live in Brooklyn? Oh, it's insufferable there now. I was like, what?

WARNER: Catarina is a freelance reporter, and she's been following this extraordinary influx of foreigners to Portugal, an influx that has sped up during the pandemic as more workers and companies decide you really can work from anywhere. So why not work from Portugal?

MARTINS: With the sun and the beaches and cheaper living?

WARNER: I'm sold.

MARTINS: Yeah, I'm sold, too.

WARNER: The Portuguese government has courted these digital nomads with tax incentives and expedited visas and other perks and a promise, a kind of - let's call it a Southern European attitude toward work-life balance.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: How many times have you left early, canceled a meeting or otherwise changed your plan? How many times have you said you were going but stayed right where you were, sinking in the sand?

WARNER: This is from a 2017 brand campaign called Can't Skip Portugal.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: How many times did you look at yourself from another perspective and grasp...

MARTINS: It's telling that Portugal is aligning itself towards the future of work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: So voyage out. Let the wind blows through your sails. Explore, dream and discover.

MARTINS: The ideal work-life balance, just respecting each other's dignity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Because, after all, you can't skip life.

WARNER: Sounds pretty good. Well, our story today is about what happened when Portugal decided to go a step further and inscribe work life balance, not just into the country's brand campaign, but into its laws.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: Good morning, Web Summit. Good morning, everyone. Good morning, dear minister.

ANA MENDES GODINHO: Good morning to all of you. I think we all went...

WARNER: This is the minister of labor, Ana Mendes Godinho, speaking with a moderator in November 2021 at the Web Summit in Lisbon.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MODERATOR: And you're also trying to catch some digital nomads.

GODINHO: Well, the pandemic also showed to everyone that you can work from anywhere to anywhere. So this gives...

MARTINS: Then she said that Portugal wants to be known as a country that is very friendly towards workers.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GODINHO: Wherever they are. You can work from Portugal to any place in the world. I think a great moment to discuss this week, because this week is this being discussed exactly in the parliament, in the Portuguese Parliament, the approval of a special measure.

WARNER: Not just an ad campaign, but a special measure to amend the labor code.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GODINHO: To manage our work-life balance. So I, again, think that...

MARTINS: And, in particular, the amendment that got the most attention was just the right to disconnect.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #1: Portugal is not playing around with work-life balance.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #2: Portugal's minister of labor and social security says the government plans to make remote working as easy as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #3: Yeah. They're trying to draw a line in the sand that separates your work life from your personal life.

MARTINS: From now on, Portuguese employers are forbidden...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #4: Illegal...

MARTINS: ...To contact workers...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #4: ...Outside office hours.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #5: So if a boss is caught breaking the law, breaking the law, breaking the law, they face fines.

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #6: Employers could be fined if they do.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH")

TREVOR NOAH: Wow, Portugal. This is so gangster, making it illegal...

WARNER: To many observers like comedian Trevor Noah, this law sounded like a dream come true.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH TREVOR NOAH")

NOAH: You realize that means now when your boss calls you during dinner, you can just pick up the phone and be like, hold on. Hold on. Hold on, sir. Yes. Let me put you on a conference call with the police, b****. Ha-ha.

WARNER: It's not a crime. You can't actually be arrested. But employers might pay a fine of up to 9,690 euros for every errant text or email. And the way the law is written, any worker in Portugal can file a complaint, though not freelancers.

MARTINS: So I cannot report on you, Gregory (laughter).

WARNER: Well, yes, I was just thinking. I have definitely emailed you on a Sunday and a Saturday and after hours. But, of course, the time difference. But - so you don't have a case against me, right?

MARTINS: No.

(LAUGHTER)

WARNER: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: This is ROUGH TRANSLATION. I'm Gregory Warner. It's our series @Work. Today on the show, when your country's brand is escape but you can't. It's been seven months since that law's announcement. We check in on how it's going.

MARTINS: There's a lot more, not even much more beneath the surface, but right beneath the surface, there's a whole different story.

WARNER: We dig into the true story of a trendy new law and dredge up some surprising ghosts from Portugal's past...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Non-English language spoken).

WARNER: ...That still haunt young workers today.

MARTINS: The boss is in charge, and everyone is submissive to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: We're stuck at work with ROUGH TRANSLATION. Back after this break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: We are back with ROUGH TRANSLATION. I'm Gregory Warner. When we first set out to report this story, we figured we'd find someone who made a complaint under this new law and then just look at what happened. But that turned out to be kind of hard to do. We weren't able to find any public announcements of an employer actually forced to pay a fine. The Working Conditions Authority, which handles these cases, did not get back to us with any information on this. And we also reached out to top labor lawyers in the country. They'd not heard of any complaints. And so Catarina put out a call to workers who might have a complaint of bosses encroaching on their personal time. The people we spoke to told us that after-hours calls - that wasn't the half of it.

ALEXANDER: My name is Alexander (ph).

ANDREA: (Through interpreter) My name is Andrea (ph). I worked in the banking sector.

ALEXANDRA: (Through interpreter) I am Alexandra (ph).

JOSE: (Through interpreter) I'm Jose (ph). I'm an engineer in the construction industry. I have experienced several situations of abuse related to successive contact outside of working hours.

ALEXANDER: We often work 16 hours a day, seven days a week - no holidays or vacations whatsoever.

WARNER: On average, the Portuguese work some of the longest hours for the least pay in all of Europe.

ANDREA: (Through interpreter) It was just demand, demand, demand, demand.

WARNER: Longer than England, longer than Germany.

ALEXANDRA: (Through interpreter) So there's a culture favoring the person that comes first at the office and leaves last.

WARNER: But workers also told us about more serious abuses - no overtime paid when they make you work late, public humiliations, verbal abuse, people accused of disloyalty just for asking for personal time.

ANDREA: (Through interpreter) I asked for human resources to help me. They accused me of being sick and crazy.

WARNER: And then along comes the right to disconnect.

ALEXANDER: I want a law that prohibits the company from calling employees outside working hours. I think it's amazing.

ANDREA: (Through interpreter) I paid a lot of attention to it.

ALEXANDER: So you asked if I was willing to present charges.

ALEXANDRA: (Through interpreter) I thought many times about filing a complaint.

ALEXANDER: And I am not, for many reasons. If anyone knew that was me, I would feel the consequences, obviously.

ALEXANDRA: Because it is a small market, working market.

ALEXANDER: Where everybody knows everybody and stories get changed and after a while you simply cannot control the outcome.

WARNER: The workers we heard from had many reasons for not filing a complaint. Some worried about backlash.

ALEXANDRA: (Through interpreter) I always felt I would only file a complaint after I left the company for the fear of reprisal.

WARNER: Some said they were just used to late-night calls, and others felt like a complaint would not do anything.

JOSE: (Through interpreter) I believe that in Portugal it's not possible to implement this law.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: The Portugal they described - it was the opposite of the brand campaign. Not only was work-life balance scarce, but defending your right to disconnect was at best futile, at worst fatal to your future career. Given all that, could the Portuguese government enforce this law?

GODINHO: Hello, hello, Gregory. My name...

WARNER: We jumped on a Zoom call with Minister Ana Mendes Godinho. She's the one you heard earlier speaking at the Web Summit.

GODINHO: I'm the minister of labor, solidarity and social security in Portugal, completely committed to this new age of labor and promoting Portugal as a great destination to work.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken). I'm Catarina Fernandes Martins. So I'm a Portuguese journalist, and so I am the Portuguese side of this story.

GODINHO: Fantastic Portuguese girl. Thank you, Catarina.

MARTINS: Yes, thank you.

WARNER: So we asked her about this culture in Portugal, predating the pandemic, for employees to work long hours and be contacted after hours.

GODINHO: This is a question of culture, which - I think it's crucial to change the mindset.

WARNER: According to the Portuguese newspaper Expresso, which analyzed Labour Ministry data, most workers under age 34 make less than 12,000 euros a year, are still living with their parents or family and have jobs that are not permanent. Minister Godinho called this rise in precarious work a new form of dictatorship.

GODINHO: Because that makes young people completely dependent and in an uncertain ability to manage their future, to decide their lives, to decide if they have children or not. So our major goal is to fight precarious work where not justified, of course.

WARNER: You said that it's very important to change a mindset, change a culture. When we've talked to Portuguese workers, they expressed cynicism that complaints will be heard. It feels like the best sign that this is a real law for Portuguese citizens would be that a complaint is heard, and a fine is levied against an employer - that the actual law has teeth. When do you expect that that might actually happen?

GODINHO: Well, it depends, of course, on the number of claims that exist. But I can assure everyone that the labor authority is completely engaged with this law. So you can have my word in terms of compromise of the labor authority of acting when the claims are presented.

WARNER: And actually, you mentioned that the complaints are coming. So how many people have filed a complaint at this point? How many cases are in the courts at this point?

GODINHO: I'm sorry. I'm not - I don't know information. I have no information about the number of claims. I know that more than complaints right now, we have doubts.

MARTINS: I'm just - I'm there now to see if it exists. Here it is.

WARNER: Not long after we met with the minister, Catarina logged on to the labor authority website.

MARTINS: And it says, make your complaint. Make your complaint. And I click there. Then you have to be registered here to enter.

WARNER: So what are you seeing? Is there, like, a box where you type out what happened?

MARTINS: So there's no box for the right to disconnect. There's clearly a box for - to ask for intervention for harassment, which is under a different law. But I'm not seeing the right to disconnect one.

WARNER: This new right to disconnect law was reminding Catarina of an old Portuguese saying.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken). So we have a saying, which it goes, we do things for the Englishmen to see.

WARNER: And who would be the Englishmen that it was for?

MARTINS: Yeah. So the Englishmen would be people - the foreigners that can just pick up their stuff and move to paradise country, you know? So it would be for digital nomads.

WARNER: Digital nomads.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: 'Cause after all, we can't skip life.

WARNER: You remember that 2017 ad campaign aimed at luring expats to Portugal? That campaign - it was done under the leadership of the then secretary of state for tourism who - well, we met her already. She is now Portugal's labor minister.

GODINHO: I was previously a secretary of state for tourism. And during that time, I used to position and promote Portugal as the country who, 500 years ago, discovered the world by sea. And now we are being discovered, of course, as a tourism destination.

WARNER: Do you see a connection between your work there and your work now?

GODINHO: Yes. I do feel there is this huge connection between promoting Portugal as a good destination to live and to visit and, of course, to work.

WARNER: Just a note about the minister's reference to Portugal's colonial past - you know, discovering the world by sea - that is actually where the phrase, laws for the Englishmen to see, has its origin. I just want to thank a Brazilian friend who works for the U.N., who clued us into the first use of this phrase in the early 1800s, when England demanded that Portugal end the slave trade in Brazil. Brazil was then a Portuguese colony. England was then the most powerful country in the world and a crucial trading partner. So Brazil passed a law abolishing the slave trade, but the trade continued.

MARTINS: It was just on paper in the law. But yes, you do it for - to convince someone. You don't do it to actually change things.

WARNER: It actually made slavery harder to eradicate because it went under the radar. For all the abolitionist Englishmen and Englishwomen out there, the end of the Portuguese trade was settled, thanks to the law.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: What's in it for the Portuguese government, though? It plans to build a virtual workforce...

WARNER: So as Catarina watched all the news reports around the right to disconnect, her heart sank.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Portugal's big bet is that it will be an attractive place for people who can work remotely.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Explore its scenic beaches.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Nice weather, beaches.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Boost the tourism sector.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Lower cost of living.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Without having to worry about work.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: So who knows? Maybe these new laws might tip the scales and convince more Americans to move there.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: The way things are right now, Portugal seems reasonable. That was some beautiful shots we had of Portugal. It's a beautiful place.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: Very pretty place. It is.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Beautiful place.

WARNER: The marketing of Portugal to expats did not start with the right to disconnect, but it is part of a trend.

MARTINS: There was this very fast, wild, savage gentrification process that started happening...

WARNER: So many people are priced out.

MARTINS: ...Because now you have to have a country that is shared with wealthier people.

WARNER: Catarina raised this with Minister Godinho in our interview. Is this law only a promotion campaign?

GODINHO: Well, first of all, let me tell you, this is not a law for English to see. This is a law for those who work in Portugal. So this is obvious. But as I was saying - and sorry, this is a little bit repetitive because we are through the same question over and over again.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: (Non-English language spoken).

WARNER: Minister, I know we're running over.

GODINHO: Yes, sorry, but I have an appointment at 11, so I'm a little bit under pressure.

WARNER: Well, thank you, minister.

GODINHO: Thank you, Gregory.

MARTINS: Have a nice day.

GODINHO: Bye-bye.

MARTINS: Bye-bye.

GODINHO: Good work.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: I left that conversation feeling confused. Even if the minister is abundantly focused on promoting Portugal abroad, she'd also said that workplace culture was a problem. Studies show that burnout in Portugal is above average in Europe. So if workers feel vulnerable and the government now has a law that speaks to this, what's the problem? Like, why was Portugal's workplace culture still so hard to change?

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: ROUGH TRANSLATION - back after this break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: We're back with ROUGH TRANSLATION. I'm Gregory Warner, telling this story with Catarina Fernandes Martins. To understand how Portuguese might be seeing this new law, this right to disconnect...

MARTINS: I'm going to go back and give a bit of a history lesson. So bear with me (laughter), and don't get too bored.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: In 1974, Portugal overthrew the dictatorship in this romantic, poetic revolution...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #8: This was May Day in Lisbon.

MARTINS: ...In which we always grew up saying, not a single shot was fired.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #8: Two hundred thousand people took to the streets, strewing red carnations and dancing with the troops.

MARTINS: And we put carnations inside machine guns instead.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #8: A united people will never be defeated.

WARNER: The Carnation Revolution.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #8: How did you know whether everybody in the army agreed with you?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: One song.

WARNER: A song forbidden by the dictatorship.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST #8: What was the song called?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: "Grandola."

MARTINS: "Grandola, Vila Morena."

(SOUNDBITE OF MARCHING)

MARTINS: It is - it's a protest song. (Singing) Grandola, Vila Morena.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

JOSE AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

WARNER: The thing you need to know about this dictatorship that ruled Portugal since the 1930s, it had a particular view about work. The dictator, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, believed that the workplace was this great instrument of social control. Every worker was ordered to be loyal to their boss. Every company was loyal to the state.

MARTINS: The dictator is the father of the great family that is the Portuguese people, right?

WARNER: Salazar's vision fused autocratic rule with the more conservative doctrines of the Catholic Church.

MARTINS: And then the boss at every company, every factory is a father of the family that is his workers.

WARNER: Secret police would arrest workers who made trouble or spoke out about worker treatment. They were seen as agents of communism.

MARTINS: The father is in charge, and everyone is submissive to them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTONIO DE OLIVEIRA SALAZAR: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: There is this extraordinary, remarkable speech by Salazar in which he repeats, we don't discuss, we don't discuss, we don't discuss.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SALAZAR: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: "We don't discuss God and virtue."

(SOUNDDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SALAZAR: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: "We don't discuss the homeland and its history."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SALAZAR: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: "We don't discuss authority and its prestige."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SALAZAR: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: "We don't discuss the glory of work and its duty."

WARNER: The dictatorship was overthrown in 1974. Catarina was born in 1990 after Portugal became a democracy and after it joined the EU. The message she grew up hearing from her father was one befitting a democracy - discuss everything.

MARTINS: He is a romantic in many ways.

WARNER: Every April, on the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution, they'd sing those revolutionary songs about worker dignity.

MARTINS: There were always tales about democracy, freedom, resistance.

WARNER: He raised her to speak her mind, to always speak her mind.

MARTINS: Like, he fostered arguments. He fostered debates.

WARNER: At the dinner table?

MARTINS: At the dinner table.

WARNER: I mean, you can hear the joy in her voice when she remembers arguing with her dad.

MARTINS: There was always debate, and I'm already (laughter) someone like that in my nature, but I'm always debating with him, and I've done that since as I was able to speak.

WARNER: Catarina started her first job as an intern at a top newspaper in Lisbon in 2011, when Portugal was in an economic spiral. A third of young people were unemployed.

MARTINS: And it was a very difficult time.

WARNER: She found herself working long hours. But more than that...

MARTINS: You're made to feel very bad for leaving at 1 a.m.

WARNER: And there seemed like nowhere to turn. She ended up working herself to exhaustion and ended up in the hospital.

MARTINS: And the doctor said it was like a beginning of burnout. And she asked, how far along haven't you been seeing the sun?

WARNER: But when Catarina took a week off on doctor's orders, she came back to find out that a treasured assignment that she had been promised had been taken off her plate. She felt like she was being punished for taking sick leave, which, even at that time, was against the law. And so Catarina did what her father always encouraged her to do. She spoke up.

MARTINS: I raised this concern that I was being punished for being sick. And they sarcastically joked with me saying, if you would appeal to the constitutional court, they would have your back, so go and do that. But it was said in a bullying way.

WARNER: But Catarina, she ends up calling her lawyer father for...

MARTINS: Legal/dad advice.

WARNER: Instead, he told her...

MARTINS: You're just complaining. You're just - like, in Portuguese, we say (non-English language spoken). So it's a flower that is - can only grow in a greenhouse.

WARNER: She needed to learn this is how work is in Portugal. Never mind the revolutionary songs of workers' dignity they used to sing together.

MARTINS: There was this idea that you were so protected as a child, maybe now you just don't know how to adapt yourself to the working place or something.

WARNER: After that internship, Caterina never worked for a Portuguese company again. She didn't want to repeat that experience, and she tried to put that job behind her. She moved overseas for a while, worked for international outlets as a freelancer, but her relationship with her dad wasn't the same after that. They stopped those kind of joyous debates about democracy. They stopped singing the revolutionary songs.

MARTINS: I remember looking for the law and finding no one that would want to implement the law to protect me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: The feeling she felt then - like she was in a place where the law could not reach - that is the feeling that came rushing back to her after talking to the minister about the right to disconnect.

MARTINS: It's not that all the laws - it's that no one will use those laws to actually protect you or to allow yourself to be protected. And so you become cynic of all the other laws, and you become cynic of democracy.

WARNER: Most of the young workers she talked to had not heard of the right to disconnect.

MARTINS: They didn't pay attention to it. It just was another headline, you know?

WARNER: They weren't planning to try to register a complaint because, she says, they'd seen other laws without teeth, other laws for the Englishmen to see.

MARTINS: To sell a lie, basically. It was that that really upset me.

WARNER: Because you were sold the lie growing up.

MARTINS: Probably. Yeah.

WARNER: So when you called up your dad when you were in that terrible job and you told him about what you were going through, what would you have wanted to hear from him?

MARTINS: I just wanted him to tell me something like, I can't help you, but I believe you. That's all I wanted.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: I believe you. What you're going through is wrong. Her father never said that. Instead, he called her spoiled for not taking it in silence. So what did he know about Portuguese work culture that he'd neglected to share with his daughter growing up? Or had Catarina somehow absorbed the wrong lesson from her revolutionary dad? In almost 10 years, she'd never asked him about that moment, until...

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

WARNER: As part of reporting this story, she sat down with her father, Antonio Martins, in her brother's old bedroom, and she asked him that question she'd never asked before.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

So I asked him if he remembered, and I started telling him about the abuses and harassment happening at my workplace - former workplace.

(Non-English language spoken).

ANTONIO MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: He said he perfectly remembers that I was completely exhausted.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: He also said that he was raised with the idea that once you have a job, you have to do everything that's demanded of you at that job.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

WARNER: Antonio went to law school at Lisbon University in the '80s. This was just years after the dictatorship had collapsed. All his professors were raised in that fascist system.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: And so at university, the teachers would always tell him that they were preparing them for war, the war of the real world, and the difficulties of what it is to practice law.

WARNER: What does that mean, to prepare for work like you're preparing for war? Like, what does that look like?

MARTINS: It is this idea that you are not in charge of your life. Adults or politicians or employers or fathers - they are the bosses of you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: When ROUGH TRANSLATION returns, Catarina finally confronts her dad about what has been haunting her all these years.

So you asked, did you think I was spoiled? And he said yes.

MARTINS: Yes, he did.

WARNER: So how was that to hear?

MARTINS: It was amazing.

WARNER: After this break.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WARNER: We are back with ROUGH TRANSLATION. I'm Gregory Warner. Sometimes reporting can lead you to odd places. And when we started digging into this new Portuguese law and a brand campaign, we did not expect it to lead us to the reporter sitting in her brother's old bedroom interviewing her dad. But the story that Antonio told of his mistreatment in Lisbon law school - it helped Catarina see her work experience in a totally new way.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

WARNER: He describes professors humiliating students in public, going to exams in a state of terror, and many colleagues giving up before graduation. There was no concept of personal time. They'd intentionally announce an exam would begin at 10 in the morning, only to make them wait until six at night.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: They had no life of their own. Their lives and their schedule belonged to the university.

WARNER: When people talk about fascism today, they tend to look at the more overt forms of violence, like repression of free speech and nighttime arrests, torture of opposition. Salazar's Portugal had all that, too. But authoritarian societies also need quieter ways to make people submit. And these lessons in obedience that Antonio learned in law school - they stayed with him all his life.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: He used to go to court very nervous, feeling like he had to prove something to his teachers who were very far away.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: And that very often clouded his clarity when he was in court.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: And that's something that's still difficult to overcome. And that's all the wounds of that time.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

WARNER: And so Antonio was determined that the people around him would not suffer as he had. He covered up how he felt at work, and he taught his daughter to feel good about entering the work world.

MARTINS: Somehow, with the years and the democratization process, he always thought, oh, this is going to change. They're going to modernize themselves. And it was the opposite.

WARNER: Things had gotten worse, he says. For example, just this year at Lisbon University - that's where Antonio went to school - students took the rare step of revealing abuses in the press, and a university investigation found the teachers engaged in, quote, "attempts at intimidation or reprisals, provocative and humiliating acts, aggressive behavior that demonstrates a lack of due respect or consideration." Antonio says he wasn't surprised. His awakening came years ago when Catarina first called him to say she'd been hospitalized for exhaustion.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: He said, I was afraid that I had spoiled you and your brother because, of course, we had better living conditions than our parents because we were the generation living in democracy.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

MARTINS: When he finally understood the full scope of things and what was happening and - he realized that this country is ill. It wasn't just me who was ill. This country was ill.

MARTINS: (Non-English language spoken).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTINS: I think that was a very important moment with my father. I can say that my resentment washed off. And actually, a lot of my resentment towards the country also washed off in that moment. We had a fascist regime until very, very recently. And that's something that really, really messes you up and still contaminates the soils. It's the system, and it's in our inheritance.

WARNER: Less than a week after Catarina interviewed her dad, it was the anniversary of the Carnation Revolution - Freedom Day.

MARTINS: I wanted to go get some carnations because I always crave red carnations in April 25.

WARNER: This year was a special milestone. Portugal has now spent more days under democracy than under dictatorship. And so she and her dad got in the car and went to find some flowers.

MARTINS: So we went to take a ride into the countryside, which was covered in flowers, and it was a beautiful spring day. The sun was high in the sky, and I just really felt like I needed and wanted to hear those songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing non-English language).

MARTINS: And I played them in the car, and it was...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINS: It was very emotional because he said - at some point, he says, those really were remarkable days.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINS: And I had to feel the disappointment for him as well because he got out of a dictatorship and thought everything was okay. And then to realize that it wasn't, I think it's much worse than what it is for me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINS: And so I just felt his pain. And I think that's what I heard when he said those really were remarkable days, as if those days are over.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINS: And in the last few years, I haven't heard him sing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINS: He just sang along with me now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINS: He just really sang it from his guts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

MARTINS: I'm just like, come on. We need to cling to this. We need to - we know that we cannot give up. We cannot give this up.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTINS: And I could feel that that romance is still very much alive in him (laughter).

WARNER: Catarina's relationship with her dad - it's back to what it used to be, and she started looking differently at that abusive job she had so many years ago.

MARTINS: You know, I thought, OK, I left that workplace. It's gone. It's not part of my life anymore, and that whatever happens at work shouldn't say something about who you are as a person, right?

WARNER: But now she realized that a dictatorship that fell long before she was born had used the workplace to do just that - to evaluate one's worth as a person.

MARTINS: And I just had assumed that it's work. It was something done by people that you don't know so well - it can't hurt you. But it can. Work can hurt you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN MARSAC'S "FADO ESPECIAL")

WARNER: Reporting on the right to disconnect has given you, finally, the ability to disconnect from that work experience that was so many years ago.

MARTINS: Yeah, it's - I have a clean slate.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN MARSAC'S "FADO ESPECIAL")

MARTINS: I think we need to kind of go through this process - maybe not as crazy and deep, but some part of this process. And this is what I mean by untangling ourselves from it.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN MARSAC'S "FADO ESPECIAL")

MARTINS: But I had to go examine the history of fascism in my country in order to do that (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN MARSAC'S "FADO ESPECIAL")

WARNER: Next week @Work - you know that saying, if at first you don't succeed, et cetera, et cetera?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #10: Yeah, the Silicon Valley type of conversation is always - let's talk about failure because it's cool to talk about it.

WARNER: But what if you are an entrepreneur in a country with government corruption and power outages and endless bureaucracy? Does that mantra to fail fast need a rewrite?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #11: Oh, yes, I - yeah. Fail fast, fail forward. I have. I have. In fact - 'cause my friend, he says that - what if you fail slow and you can't fail fast (laughter)? Then what do you do?

WARNER: That's next week on our series, @Work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

WARNER: Just a friendly reminder - we'd love to hear what you think of all the shows we make here at NPR. Please go to npr.org/podcastsurvey to let us know how we're doing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

WARNER: This episode was produced by Adelina Lancianese, co-reported by Catarina Fernandes Martins, edited by Luis Trelles. Every podcast takes a village, and the ROUGH TRANSLATION team includes Justine Yan, Tessa Paoli, Pablo Arguelles and our new intern, Nick M. Neves. Emily Bogle is our visuals editor. Our supervising producer is Liana Simstrom. Our supervising senior producer is Bruce Auster.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

WARNER: Big thanks to Tony Cavin, Jina Moore, Miriam Bialik van Wees and Bruno Brant. Thanks also to Professor Ricardo Noronho and Jose Matos for helping us understand Salazar's Portugal, and thanks to the amazing editorial ears of Katz Laszlo, Robert Krulwich and Sana Krasikov. A special shout-out to Catarina's radio teacher and mine, Rob Rosenthal. Thanks, Rob. Special thanks to the Web Summit for use of archival tape.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

WARNER: "Grandola, Vila Morena" was written and performed by Jose Afonso. We used it courtesy of the Afonso estate and Nuno Afonso at Mais 5. We'll have a link to the song's lyrics in Portuguese and in English in our show notes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

WARNER: John Ellis composed our theme music - additional music by FirstCom Music and Blue Dot Sessions, mastering by Josh Newell, fact-checking by Nicolette Khan, legal guidance from Micah Ratner and Eduardo Miceli, voiceover help from Lauren Einhorn, Nina Fill and Josh Lash. NPR's senior vice president for programming is Anya Grundmann.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

WARNER: I'm Gregory Warner - back next week with more ROUGH TRANSLATION @Work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRANDOLA, VILA MORENA")

AFONSO: (Singing in non-English language).

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