Italy: Termination for Angry E-Mails to Senior Management Upheld

Global HR

​With its Order No. 2246 of Jan. 26, Italy’s Court of Cassation ruled that termination was justified after a manager sent an angry e-mail to the company’s top management. The manager engaged in conduct likely to disrupt the relationship of trust that bound the worker to the employer, even if the conduct did not formally breach their work obligations.

Facts of the Case

A senior manager was dismissed for just cause after he sent an e-mail to the company’s top management saying: ”You have betrayed my trust and good faith, and I do not know how long I can go on putting up with your behavior that I consider disgraceful.”

The dismissed manager sued the former employer (i) claiming that such remarks had been caused by an episode that had triggered a strong psychological reaction and (ii) asked her to pay indemnity instead of notice, additional indemnity, under the provisions of the National Collective Labor Agreement for Industry Managers, and damages for demotion and harassment.

The Court of First Instance partially upheld the appeal, finding that the dismissal was ”justified” under the relevant national collective labor agreement—that is, neither vexatious nor arbitrary—even if dismissal lacked just cause. The Court ruled the manager should receive only the indemnity instead of notice and rejected the other claims.

The Court of Appeal complied with the Court of first instance ruling, pointing out that ”the words aimed at the employer in the contested e-mail … while not constituting just cause for dismissal, provided the justification based on collective bargaining, which implies no additional compensation. This is in light of the top management role and subsequent higher trust relationship.”

The manager appealed to the Court of Cassation.

The Supreme Court of Cassation’s Ruling

The Court hearing the case noted that, according to settled case law, ”for manager dismissal justification purposes,” an analytical verification of specific conditions is not required, but it is sufficient to make an overall assessment that excludes the termination arbitrariness since it was due to circumstances likely to disrupt the bond of trust that bound him to the employer. 

Any reason for termination, based on coherent grounds and legally appreciable reasons, thus becomes relevant. Based on the general principles of good faith and contractual fairness, the manager’s conduct was considered suitable to disturb the relationship of trust with the employer, even in the absence of a formal breach of employment obligations.

According to the Court of Cassation, the termination was justified by the need of the entrepreneur to fully rely on the manager for the execution of directives.

Given the above, the Court of Cassation dismissed the manager’s appeal and ordered him to pay the costs of the proceedings.

De Luca & Partners, labor and employment lawyers in Milan since 1976. © 2022 De Luca & Partners. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission of Lexology.

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