By Order of 13 November 2023, no. 31561, the Italian Court of Cassation ruled that, to fully comply with the repêchage obligation (obligation to relocate), it is necessary to assess whether hires made following the termination for justified objective reasons are of the same level of classification as the dismissed employee.
The facts of the case
An employee, employed as a cashier in a bar, challenged her dismissal for abolition of her position.
Following the first instance judgment, in which it was ascertained that the termination was unlawful, the employer appealed.
The Territorial Court, reversing the ruling of the court of first instance, held that the dismissal was lawful. The court based this decision on evidence not only of the abolition of the job of cashier, but also of the fact that the worker had always and only performed the duties of cashier, having never performed duties as a counter or table attendant, tasks that were subsequently assigned to newly hired staff.
The judges of second instance also specified that “the fact – which is completely incidental and random – that multiple qualifications are placed in the same level of classification by the collective agreement is of no relevance. This allocation, in fact, is relevant for other purposes, i.e. to identify the regulatory and remuneration regime of the employment relationship of the employees thus classified, but it is completely <neutral>, i.e. irrelevant, for the purposes of the interchangeability of the related tasks”.
The appeal to the Court of Cassation and the Court’s decision
The Court of Appeal’s decision was appealed by the employee on several grounds.
The Italian Court of Cassation – accepting the appeal brought by the employee – ruled, preliminarily, that the employer, in fulfilling its repêchage obligation, cannot disregard careful consideration of the national collective bargaining agreement (contratto collettivo nazionale di lavoro, ‘CCNL’) applicable to the employment relationship.
Indeed, according to the judges of the Italian Court of Cassation, in the case of dismissal for justified objective reasons, and in the light of the new Article 2103 of the Italian Civil Code, the reference to the levels of classification described by a collective agreement is a relevant factor.
The Court specified that the CCNL “constitutes a factor that the judge will have to assess to ascertain whether or not the person who was dismissed was, in fact, able – on the basis of objectively verifiable evidence adduced by the employer and having regard to the specific training and entire professional experience of the employee – to carry out the duties of those who were hired ex novo, even if it is at the same or lower level”.
The Court of Cassation, finding no such assessment in the contested judgment on the merits, therefore upheld the employee’s appeal.
Other related insights:
- Italian Court of Cassation: employer’s repêchage obligation (obligation to relocate) – necessary to evaluate also positions that will become available in period close to dismissal (Modulo 24 Contenzioso Lavoro of Il Sole 24 Ore, 31 May 2023 – Stefania Raviele, Chiara Carminati) – De Luca & Partners (delucapartners.it)
- The repêchage obligation also exists in the event of collective redundancy and trade union agreement – De Luca & Partners (delucapartners.it)