In a ruling dated 8 July 2021, the Court of Trento, upheld a disciplinary dismissal (for just cause) imposed on a teacher who repeatedly refused to wear a protective mask while working at school.
In this case, the teacher, employed by the Autonomous Province of Trento, refused to comply with an order issued by the head of the educational activities department, who asked her to wear a protective mask to ensure the health and safety of children, colleagues and the school community. In support of her refusal, during the disciplinary proceedings, the employee claimed that she did not want to wear the mask because she was a “conscientious objector” and that additionally, she was unable to do so for health reasons. Dismissed for just cause, she appealed to the employment tribunal of Trento, requesting reinstatement.
The Tribunal found that the allegations made by the employee did not include any medical certification capable of justifying her refusal to wear the mask. Her conduct conflicted with the guidelines for the protection of health approved by the President of the Autonomous Province of Trento by order of 25 August 2020 and, at national level, with the Protocol for the protection of health and safety at work, and the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Ministry of Education on 6 August 2020, prescribing the obligation “for anyone entering school environments” to “adopt hygienic precautions and use a mask.”
According to the Court of Trento, the above administrative measures were based on the legislator’s will (Article 16, paragraph 1, of Decree 18/2020), which sees masks as personal protective equipment. Based on previous Court of Cassation guidelines (25932/2013 and 18265/2013), the Trento court judge recalled that “the persistent refusal by the employee to use the personal protective equipment justifies the dismissal of the defaulting employee.”
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