The Court of Cassation, with judgement No. 7642/2019, has once again deliberated on the issue of selection criteria in collective redundancy procedures, as set out in Law 233/1991.


The facts

The Court of first instance rejected a statement of opposition filed by a company pursuant to art. 1, paragraph 51, of Law 92/2012 against the decisions issued at the end of the summary case hearing to overturn the dismissal of two workers in the context of a redundancy process pursuant to Law 223/1991.


The company had challenged the first instance judgement before the Court of Appeal, which, in granting the appeal, dismissed all claims of the workers.


The Court of Appeal held that the company, contrary to what the applicants had claimed, had not assigned a different weighting to the three selection criteria set out in art. 5 of Law 223/1991, observing that “their concurrent existence does not indicate parity but merely their simultaneous presence in the assessment process”.


In detail, in the context of the technical, production and organisational needs criteria, the company had identified four sub-criterions, specifically: (i) attendance; (ii) positions established to be redundant; (iii) versatility; (iv) employed in discontinued operations. This was because the need to reduce staff numbers was linked to industrial restructuring programmes that involved discontinuing a number of operations in the production area.


On this point, the Court of Appeal:

  • excluded that the weighting assigned to the “versatility” criterion concealed a discriminatory intent;
  • considered the assessment of the ability to perform different tasks in different departments to be consistent with the industrial restructuring described in the letter announcing the commencement of the procedure.


Furthermore, the Court of Appeal held that two factors could not be underestimated, that the trade unions involved throughout the entire procedure had not raised any objection to the selection criteria used and that the applicants had not “provided a simulation of a ‘prova di resistenza’” (comparing the scores of all employees made redundant against those of all employees not made redundant).


Two employees challenged the decision of the Court of Appeal before the Court of Cassation. The two petitions were rejected by the Court of Cassation.


Court of Cassation ruling


In rejecting the two petitions, the Court of Cassation first highlighted that an application to overturn a collective redundancy for violation of the selection criteria set out in art. 5 of Law 223/1991 could not be brought randomly by each of the workers made redundant. In fact, the violation could only be challenged by those employees made redundant who had effectively suffered a detriment as a result of the violation, insofar as the violation was decisive in the redundancy decision (see Court of Cassation ruling No. 24558/2016).


That said, the Court of Cassation observed that an employer could not restrict the selection of the workers to be made redundant “solely to workers of the departments or sectors that were being discontinued or downscaled if such workers met the requirements – having performed their duties in other departments in the past – to replace co-workers in other departments”. In other words, it would be unlawful to select employees based purely on the fact that they work in a certain department without considering that they have equivalent professional skills to those of co-workers employed in other departments.


In the specific case, the Court of Cassation deemed that the trial court had dismissed the argument that a different weighting had been given to the three selection criteria set out in art. 5 of Law 223 because all three had been assigned a score.


In detail, the Court of Cassation took the view that the process of breaking down the criterion of technical, production and organisational needs into four sub-criterions, and assigning a “different score” to each, reflected the need to compare all employees who performed equivalent tasks in different production areas.