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Threats in the workplace constitute just cause for dismissal (Quotidiano del Lavoro, Il Sole 24 Ore, 11 December 2018 – Alberto De Luca, Luciano Vella)

A serious threat made by an employee against his immediate superior constitutes a breach of the duties of cooperation, loyalty and subordination and sufficient grounds for dismissal for just cause. This is the principle of law confirmed on 3 December in the Court of Cassation judgement No. 31155/2018.

The case analysed arose from the disciplinary dismissal of an employee who – not during an animated conversation but in the context of difficult working relationships, as ascertained on several occasions by the judicial authorities – made a death threat against his superior.

The judgement issued by the Rome Trial Court in 2016 was overturned by the Rome Court of Appeal, which set aside the dismissal decision and ordered the company to reinstate the employee, having concluded that there were no grounds for dismissal given that the words used by the employee did not satisfy the minimum conditions of seriousness likely to result in the breakdown of the relationship of trust.

The employer appealed against that decision to the Court of Cassation, claiming an infringement and misapplication of the law, having the Court erred in ruling the lack of grounds for dismissal. The basis of this claim was, in particular, that the investigation had found that the incident had actually occurred and, moreover, in a context that was not inflammatory and without the employee being provoked by his immediate superior.

In upholding the employer’s claims, the Court of Appeal highlighted that the Trail Court had erred in its assessment of the employee’s conduct, noting, in particular, the employee’s previous involvement in conflicts with his superiors, as ascertained by the criminal prosecution authorities.

Click here to read the full version of the note to the judgement.