Italian Court of Cassation: second dismissal lawful pending judgment on the first

Categories: DLP Insights, Case Law, News, Publications | Tag: Dismissal, Court of Cassation

30 Jan 2024

In its very recent judgment no. 2274 of 23 January 2024, the Italian Court of Cassation ruled that it is lawful for an employer to give notice of a second dismissal pending a judgment concerning a previous dismissal based on different grounds. However, the second dismissal has no effect if the first dismissal is declared lawful by a final judgment.

The facts of the case

An employee, pending proceedings relating to a first dismissal, brought legal proceedings challenging a second disciplinary dismissal imposed on him by his employer.

The proceedings relating to this second dismissal were settled by the so-called ‘summary phase’ of the Fornero Proceedings with the annulment of the dismissal as only one of the alleged facts had been proven.

Both the employee and the employer appealed against the summary phase order.

The two sets of appeal proceedings were not joined and ended with two separate judgments, both declaring the invalidity of the supervening second dismissal. This was because, pending those judgments, the first instance court had held the first dismissal to be lawful and, subsequently, the Court of Appeal, again with reference to the first dismissal, had declared the worker’s appeal inadmissible.

The two judgments delivered in the context of the appeal phase relating to the second dismissal were appealed against by both the employer and the employee.

The Court of Appeal – following the intricate procedural sequence of events summarised above – declared the second dismissal invalid on the basis that there had been a judgment, albeit not final, which had affirmed the lawfulness of the first dismissal.

The employer appealed to the Italian Court of Cassation against the Court of Appeal’s decision.

The appeal to the Italian Court of Cassation and the Court’s decision

Pending the appeal to the Italian Court of Cassation proceedings relating to the second dismissal, that court also ruled on the first dismissal, confirming its lawfulness.

In the judgment under discussion, the Italian Court of Cassation judges therefore noted, preliminarily, the loss of interest on the part of the employer in insisting on the annulment of the ruling declaring the invalidity of the second dismissal, because such ineffectiveness was now to be considered confirmed by the final judgment.

It was only to rule on the costs of the proceedings that the Italian Court of Cassation upheld the employer’s appeal on the following grounds.

In the first place, the Court ruled that, in an employment relationship, the employer, if it has already given the employee notice of dismissal, may lawfully give notice of dismissal for a second time, based on a different ground or reason, because the latter is completely autonomous and distinct from the first.

According to the Italian Court of Cassation judges, both acts of withdrawal are in themselves theoretically sufficient to achieve the purpose, since the second dismissal is effective only in the event that the previous dismissal is held to be invalid or ineffective by a final judgment.

It follows that the Court of Appeal should have ruled on the lawfulness or otherwise of the second dismissal, since the judgment relating to the first dismissal had not – at the time – yet been concluded with a final judgment.

The Italian Court of Cassation, accepting the appeal brought by the employer, consequently ordered the employee to pay the legal costs of the proceedings.

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