Minutes of failed conciliation may contain formal notice of dismissal

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

29 Apr 2024

By order no. 10734 of 22 April 2024, the Italian Court of Cassation ruled that, in the event of a failed conciliation attempt, as required under Article 7 of Italian Law no. 604/1966 in the case of dismissal for justified objective reasons of workers hired before March 2015, the employer is not required to send the employee notice of dismissal, as the indication of the intention to interrupt the relationship contained in the minutes drawn up before the Local Employment Inspectorate (Ispettorato Territoriale del Lavoro, ‘ITL’) is sufficient.

The facts of the case

As a result of the conciliation attempt held before the ITL under Article 7 of Italian Law no. 604/1966, the minutes of failure to conciliate were drawn up, in which the employer’s intention to proceed with the dismissal of the employee for justified objective reasons was formally stated.

Subsequently, the worker challenged her dismissal, objecting, in the first place, that it was ineffective because it was not in writing.

As part of the so-called ‘summary phase’ of the Fornero Proceedings, as well as in the subsequent opposition phase, the Judge found that the dismissal had not been in writing, with a consequent order against the employer to reinstate the employee.

The employer appealed to the Italian Court of Appeal which overturned the judgment handed down in the context of the opposition phase.

The Italian Court of Appeal ruled, on the one hand, that there had been written notice of dismissal because the intention to terminate the employment relationship was contained in the minutes signed by both parties at the end of the procedure under Article 7 of Italian Law no. 604/1966. However, the Court also held, on the other hand, that as the principle of fairness and good faith had been breached with respect to the choice of the worker to be dismissed, the dismissal was unlawful and made an order against the employer under the provisions of Article 18, paragraph 7, of the Italian Workers’ Charter.

The employee appealed against the judgment before the Italian Court of Cassation and the company, as well as submitting a defence lodged, in turn, a cross-appeal.

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

The Italian Court of Cassation – in upholding the second instance judgment – noted, first of all, that the purpose of a written notice of dismissal lies in the need to make the employee aware of the action  interrupting the relationship.

This function – the Court continued – is fulfilled if the intention to proceed with the termination is formally stated by the employer, in an institutional setting (such as the ITL where the conciliation attempt under Article 7 of Italian Law no. 604/1966 is held), in minutes that are also signed by the employee.

The legislative wording of Article 7, paragraph 6, third sentence of Italian Law no. 604/1966 (“If the conciliation attempt fails and, in any case, the deadline referred to in paragraph 3 has elapsed, the employer may give notice of the dismissal to the worker”) outlines a legal condition (precedent) and a term (dilatory). For this reason, once the first has been fulfilled or the second has expired, the employer “may give the employee notice of the dismissal”.

With regard to the meaning to be attributed to the legal condition precedent (i.e., the failure of the conciliation attempt), according to the Italian Court of Cassation “the literal reading” suggests that the legislator “has given importance to the objective failure of the conciliation attempt rather than to the chronological and formal date of the finalisation of the minutes drawn up in the local conciliation commission”.

Moreover, the Court continues, “the wording of the provision does not require that the notice of dismissal which may be given by employer ‘if the conciliation attempt fails’, must take place in a different context and subsequent to that of the aforementioned minutes”.

In this sense, the Court argues, “nothing to protect the interests of the worker could plausibly justify the assumption that the notice of dismissal to the worker must necessarily take place in a context distinct from the minutes drawn up at the meeting before the appropriate commission, provided of course that the notice of dismissal already stated in that forum complies with the additional provisions on dismissal,  starting with that of the [notice being] in writing under Article 2, paragraph 1 of Italian Law no. 604/1966”.

According to the Italian Court of Cassation judges, it follows that, where the conciliation attempt under Article 7 of Italian Law no. 604/1966 fails and the employer confirms his or her intention to terminate the relationship, there is no need to subsequently send the employee a letter of dismissal.

On these grounds, the Italian Court of Cassation therefore rejected the appeal brought by the worker, confirming that she was only entitled to compensation and not reinstatement.

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