By Order No 8375 of 23 March 2023, the Italian Court of Cassation confirmed that footage from video surveillance systems installed for security purposes may be used to prove an employee’s disciplinary breach.

The facts of the case
The case arose from a disciplinary sanction of suspension from duty and pay for ten days imposed on a vocational teacher for forcibly grabbing a student by the shirt and, after releasing his grip, causing him to fall to the ground. The teacher, moreover, ‘while the pupil […] communicated to his mother what had happened […]’ addressed the latter ‘in an ill-mannered way using decidedly heated tones’.
The event was filmed by means of the video surveillance system installed by the Authority – the educator’s employer – at the Authority’s premises, and the recordings used to make the disciplinary complaint. The teacher, having received the disciplinary measure, in requesting its annulment challenged, among other things, the use of the video surveillance system footage for disciplinary purposes.
In the proceedings on the merits, the Court of Appeal rejected the request to annul the sanction and, upholding the appeal lodged by the teacher, reformed the first instance judgment by redetermining the sanction as a fine of three hours.
The teacher appealed to the Italian Court of Cassation, which the Authority resisted with a counter-appeal.
The decision of the Italian Court of Cassation
The Italian Court of Cassation – in upholding the assessment of the judges of the Court of Appeal – affirmed the lawfulness of the use of video surveillance system footage for the purpose of making a complaint based on an employee’s disciplinary breach.
In the present case, the video surveillance system had been installed in compliance with the guarantees provided for by the applicable legislation:
• the cameras had been installed for safety at work requirements, also in the light of the fact – as noted by the Italian Court of Cassation – that they were directed towards spaces that were ‘also accessible to non-employee personnel and not intended to accommodate workstations’;
• a trade union agreement had been signed as provided for in Article 4 of the Workers’ Charter.

In addition to this, matters such as the proportionality of the penalty imposed in relation to the wrongful act committed, as well as the fact that the worker had been allowed to exercise his right of defence, had also been examined.

In the context of all these assessments, the use of the video surveillance system footage was therefore an additional element that was considered lawful.

Other related insights:

Video Surveillance: the new FAQ of the Data Protection Supervisory Authority

The point on employer controls, disciplinary measures and the right to confidentiality (Norme & Tributi Plus Diritto – Il Sole 24 Ore, 20 December 2021 – Alberto De Luca, Martina De Angeli)

The applicability of an exemption regime requires the taxpayer to provide rigorous proof of fulfilment of all factual prerequisites giving rise to compensatory damages.

The Court of Cassation, Tax Division, by Order No 8615 of 27 March 2023 returned to examine the complex subject of the taxation regime applicable to the compensation due in connection with demotion suffered by the worker.

The case on which the Court was called upon to rule related to a dispute between the Italian Revenue Agency (Agenzia delle Entrate) and a worker who, in the context of a legal proceedings for demotion, reached an out-of-court settlement with her employer who paid her a sum by way of ‘compensation for moral, professional and biological damage’.

Since there was no distinction between the compensatory headings, the Italian Revenue Agency deducted Italian Personal Income Tax (Imposta sul reddito delle persone fisiche, ‘IRPEF’) from the amount received by the worker, who, therefore, brought proceedings seeking its reimbursement. The Provincial Tax Commission rejected the worker’s application. In contrast, the Regional Territorial Court reversed the decision, upholding the application against the Italian Revenue Agency, and declaring that the exemption regime applied to the sums under discussion.

On the subject of taxation of employment income or similar, the Italian Income Tax Consolidation Act No 917/1986 (Testo unico delle imposte sui redditi, ‘TUIR’) identifies the category of replacement income for employment income. Article Section 6, paragraph 2 of TUIR provides that thefollowing constitute income, of the same category as that replaced and/or lost, regardless of the reason for the payment: (i) income earned as replacement income, including as a result of the assignment of the related receivables; (ii) indemnities received, including in the form of insurance, as compensation for damages consisting in the loss of income, excluding those resulting from permanent disability or death.

The rationale behindthe legislation is that only the payments, emoluments or compensation that have resulted in the enrichment of the subject should be considered taxable.

For this purpose, a distinction is made between (i) loss of profit, i.e. the loss of income that is recognised as belonging to the same category as lost or replacement income (under Article 6, paragraph 2 of TUIR); (ii) consequential damages, i.e. the restoration of assets, namely compensation intended to cover the financial loss and not to replace lost income.

Continue reading the full version published in Norme e Tributi Plus Diritto of Il Sole 24 Ore.

The Italian Court of Cassation, by order No 1095 of 16 January 2023, held that for the purpose of reclassifying a relationship of self-employment into a subordinate one, it is possible to use subsidiary evidence (such as the continuity of service, compliance with a predetermined schedule, the receipt of a fixed monthly fee, the absence of risk and an organisational structure on the part of the worker) where there is no direct evidence of employer direction.

The facts of the case

The Supreme Court’s decision arises from proceedings brought by an IT consultant who had worked under multiple consecutive self-employment contracts, on behalf of the principal, as a system assistant at the judicial offices of Arezzo.

The Court of Pisa, in the first instance, had rejected the application for reclassification, confirming the self-employment nature of the relationship in the absence of proof of the employer’s direction.

The worker appealed against this decision before the Florence Court of Appeal complaining that the first-instance judge had not given enough importance to all the evidence that, although not sufficient to demonstrate employer direction, was sufficient to constitute proof of the subordinate relationship between them.

In the context of the second instance judgment, the territorial Court, overturning the decision of the first instance judge, held that there was an employment relationship based on the following evidence:

  • the self-employment contracts (called consulting assignments) covered the details of the services to be provided by the collaborator in a completely generic way. Thus, notwithstanding the express classification of the relationship as self-employed, the wording of the contracts did not contain any elements contradicting the existence of a subordinate relationship, which, on the contrary, was confirmed by the stipulation of remuneration commensurate with the number of working days;
  • the worker used work equipment provided by the principal, with the consequent absence of financial risk on the part of the service provider;
  • the principal exercised control over the employee’s hourly and daily workload, who performed his services according to the company’s needs;
  • entirely similar functions were entrusted, at another judicial office, to a technician employed by the company.

The company appealed against the judgment of the Court of Appeal before the Italian Court of Cassation.

The Italian Court of Cassation’s decision

The Italian Court of Cassation rejected the appeal, confirming that the Court of Appeal, having failed to find direct evidence of so-called ‘employer direction’, had correctly resorted to circumstantial evidence which, in this case, constituted suitable and significant evidence of a para-subordinate relationship.

Therefore, even in the absence of employer direction, the Court of appeal found that the existence of a subordinate relationship had been proved as (i) there was control over the hourly and daily workload; (ii) the remuneration was commensurate with the working days; (iii) the employee had no financial risk; (iv) the employee performed his services at the requested times; (v) the generic details of the services to be provided under the collaboration indicated in the contract and the absence of an obligation to achieve results.

In view of all the above, the Italian Court of Cassation dismissed the appeal filed by the company and ordered it to pay the litigation costs.

Other related insights:

The Italian Court of Cassation, with order of 11 October 2022, No 29720, confirmed that ‘any equipment, ancillary or accessory which could actually constitute a protective barrier, however small or limited, with respect to any risk to the health and safety of the worker in compliance with Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code’ falls within the definition of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

A Company – the employer – filed an appeal before the Italian Court of Cassation against a judgment of the Bari Court of Appeal. The Bari Court of Appeal judgment had confirmed the first instance decision, recognising the worker’s right to compensation for damages due to the Company’s failure to wash the clothing used by the worker to perform the work. In particular, according to the judges of first and second instance, the vest and the high visibility jacket, the waterproof jacket against the bad weather, the work trousers and the protective gloves should ‘all be considered personal protective equipment’.

Referring to numerous precedents, the Italian Court of Cassation judges reconfirmed that, due to the constitutional importance of the right to health as well as the principles of correctness and good faith as the foundations of the employment relationship, the provisions of Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code – i.e. the employer’s obligation of take all appropriate measures, according to experience, technique and specific characteristics of the work, to prevent damage to the worker’s physical health and individuality – must be interpreted broadly.

From this it follows, as stated in the order, that the employer is required both to provide the necessary clothing to its workers and to prevent the onset and spread of infections by also arranging the related washing. This obligation, in fact, becomes indispensable for the effectiveness of the clothing, thus falling within the measures necessary to protect the physical health and ethics of workers under the aforementioned Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code.

For these reasons, the Italian Court of Cassation rejected the appeal filed by the company, ordering the appellant to pay the costs.

The Italian Court of Cassation’s approach

The ruling in question – which is the most recent on the subject – confirms a by now consolidated Court of Cassation approach clarifying that the legal concept of PPE should not be limited to equipment specifically created and marketed for the protection of specific risks but must be interpreted broadly to include any equipment, ancillary or accessory that protects, even in a limited or in a minimal way, the worker from the risks to which he or she is exposed in performing his/her work (see, as stated in the order in question, Italian Court of Cassation No 16749 of 2019; No 17132 of 2019; No 17354 of 2019; Italian Court of Cassation No 5748 of 2020; Italian Court of Cassation No 17100 of 2021).

The Italian Court of Cassation, with judgment No 33134 of 10 November 2022, established that there is no unjustified absence if a worker delivers the medical certificate of illness after receiving the disciplinary complaint.

The facts of the case

Following an unjustified absence lasting seven days, a worker was dismissed for just cause. Both the Florence Tribunal and Court of Appeal held that the dismissal was unlawful because there was no basis for the dismissal. This is because, from the analysis of the facts of the case, it emerged that, on the date of giving notice of the dismissal, the medical certificate – which retroactively covered the entire period of absence subject to the disciplinary dispute – had been sent to the employer.  The judges on the merits observed that two distinct provisions of the national collective bargaining agreement (Contratto Collettivo Nazionale del Lavoro – CCNL)applied to the employment relationship, namely unjustified absence and late or irregular justification, sanctioning the first with dismissal and the second with a fine but continuing the employment relationship. In view of this contractual framework, the dismissal for just cause imposed by the employer was therefore to be considered unlawful, with a consequent order against the employer to reinstate the worker and to pay compensation of damages commensurate with the months not worked, in addition to the payment of social security contributions.

The employer company filed an appeal to the Italian Court of Cassation against the decision of the Italian Court of Appeal.

The judgment of the Italian Court of Cassation

The Italian Court of Cassation, in rejecting the appeal filed by the company, confirmed the unlawfulness of the worker’s dismissal. Starting from an analysis of the disciplinary regulation contained in the Textile and Clothing CCNL applied to the employment relationship, the Court highlighted that, from a literal reading of the regulations, it appeared that the parties to the CCNL intended the sanction of dismissal to apply only in the case of an unjustified absence and not to late justification of the absence.

It follows that the delivery of the medical certificate after the start of the disciplinary action means that there is no unjustified absence and only late justification of the absence, with the consequent unlawfulness of the sanction of dismissal.

Other related insights: