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Goodbye sailor

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calendar 27 August 2023
globus Norway

Following several internal whistleblower reports, an employee received a summary dismissal after sexually harassing several young subordinates. 30 years their senior, he had, among other things, given young men hugs and massages. The Norwegian Court of Appeals found the summary dismissal justified because of the sexually harassing acts, age gap, and difference in rank.

A ship worker in a managerial position was responsible for the ship’s galley employees. One of the company’s objectives was to work actively to solve challenges with troubled youth. Among other things, the company employed and educated young people aged between 16 and 25. Therefore, many vulnerable young people were employed at the company.

Two days before a big event, the company received a report concerning the employee giving unwanted sexual attention to three young whistleblowers. Due to the circumstances, the company decided to postpone informing the employee until after the event. During the event, the employee got into a conflict with two other young employees due to unwanted sexual attention. After getting involved in the conflict, the company informed the employee about the report. The company decided to suspend the employee pending investigation.

According to the report from the five whistleblowers, the employee had given them intimate hugs. He had also given massages, touched them on the inside of their thighs, sent inappropriate text messages, and invited them to his compartment. The report also provided that the whistleblowers had informed the employee that such attention was unwanted. The employee became annoyed, and the whistleblowers felt they had to apologise to clear the air.

The employee admitted to the claims, stating that this was not sexual acts but acts of care. The company decided to give the employee a summary dismissal.

Walking the plank was justified

The court concluded that the summary dismissal was justified. This was mainly because of the number of whistleblowers, the employee’s senior position, and the large age gap between the employee and the whistleblowers.

The employee was 30 years older than the whistleblowers, outranking them significantly, and the actions had taken place over several years. Based on this and the nature of the actions, it had to be considered sexual harassment. Further, the court concluded that the employee had been aware that the actions were unwanted. It also added weight to the vulnerable positions of the young whistleblowers.

IUNO’s opinion

Summary dismissal is a severe sanction and requires a serious breach. This case illustrates that sexual harassment can lead to a justified summary dismissal. However, there are few examples on what sexual harassment is defined as in Norway, so it will always be a case-by-case assessment. In this case, the specific circumstances of age, rank, frequency, duration, and the acts led to the definition of sexual harassment, justifying the summary dismissal.

IUNO recommends that companies implement measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Before giving a summary dismissal due to sexual harassment, companies should take the time to investigate the claim properly and ensure proper case handling. You can read more about companies’ responsibilities regarding sexual harassment here.

[Borgarting Court of Appeal’s judgement of 21 June 2023 in case LB-2023-13898]

A ship worker in a managerial position was responsible for the ship’s galley employees. One of the company’s objectives was to work actively to solve challenges with troubled youth. Among other things, the company employed and educated young people aged between 16 and 25. Therefore, many vulnerable young people were employed at the company.

Two days before a big event, the company received a report concerning the employee giving unwanted sexual attention to three young whistleblowers. Due to the circumstances, the company decided to postpone informing the employee until after the event. During the event, the employee got into a conflict with two other young employees due to unwanted sexual attention. After getting involved in the conflict, the company informed the employee about the report. The company decided to suspend the employee pending investigation.

According to the report from the five whistleblowers, the employee had given them intimate hugs. He had also given massages, touched them on the inside of their thighs, sent inappropriate text messages, and invited them to his compartment. The report also provided that the whistleblowers had informed the employee that such attention was unwanted. The employee became annoyed, and the whistleblowers felt they had to apologise to clear the air.

The employee admitted to the claims, stating that this was not sexual acts but acts of care. The company decided to give the employee a summary dismissal.

Walking the plank was justified

The court concluded that the summary dismissal was justified. This was mainly because of the number of whistleblowers, the employee’s senior position, and the large age gap between the employee and the whistleblowers.

The employee was 30 years older than the whistleblowers, outranking them significantly, and the actions had taken place over several years. Based on this and the nature of the actions, it had to be considered sexual harassment. Further, the court concluded that the employee had been aware that the actions were unwanted. It also added weight to the vulnerable positions of the young whistleblowers.

IUNO’s opinion

Summary dismissal is a severe sanction and requires a serious breach. This case illustrates that sexual harassment can lead to a justified summary dismissal. However, there are few examples on what sexual harassment is defined as in Norway, so it will always be a case-by-case assessment. In this case, the specific circumstances of age, rank, frequency, duration, and the acts led to the definition of sexual harassment, justifying the summary dismissal.

IUNO recommends that companies implement measures to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Before giving a summary dismissal due to sexual harassment, companies should take the time to investigate the claim properly and ensure proper case handling. You can read more about companies’ responsibilities regarding sexual harassment here.

[Borgarting Court of Appeal’s judgement of 21 June 2023 in case LB-2023-13898]

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