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HR Legal

Manager’s leadership style justified termination

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Legal news
calendar 14 November 2021
globus Norway

Ensuring a safe and healthy working environment is one of the company’s most important responsibilities. But how should companies address the situation when a manager is the one responsible for an unhealthy working environment? In a recent case, a business manager was terminated due her leadership style. Among other things, the termination was justified.

A business manager in a municipality was responsible for two home nursing care zones and two sheltered housing facilities. After having been employed for three years, the company was notified about her behavior by five of her employees. To document her behavior, the employees had listed 13 examples of behavior they considered affected the working environment. One example included that she had talked behind their backs, another that she had harassed them, and a third that she had been absent without even completing her own work tasks.

After having been made aware of the problem, she was invited to a discussion meeting. During the meeting, she was offered different alternative roles, similar to her existing position. After she had refused all of the offers, the company terminated her with reference to co-operation issues and the need to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for the other employees.

Because the employee was convinced that the termination was invalid, the case ended before the Norwegian Agder Court of Appeals.

Aggressive and bad management compromised the working environment

Because the employee’s managerial style had substantially affected the working environment in a negative way, the decision to terminate her was justified and valid.

It played an important role in its assessment that the employee had had a managerial role in the company, with the responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for the employees in her section. Her aggressive and toxic leadership had, among other things, clearly resulted in employee representatives refraining from bringing up issues, out of fear if retaliation. Other examples included that the employee had failed to follow up on decisions made at meetings, cancelled co-determination meetings without a reason, showed poor performance in relation to her tasks and duties or expressed a wish that certain employees in her section would resign from their positions. Her employees had also expressed that they felt nervous, scared and uncomfortable around her at the workplace.

The court also emphasized that it was clear that the company had attempted to relocate the employee within the company before terminating her, and that it thereby had attempted to find a better solution for everyone involved before deciding to proceed to termination. When the employee refused to co-operate, the company had had no other options left.

IUNO’s opinion

Companies are both responsible for ensuring a safe and healthy working environment in respect to the physical working environment and the psychosocial working environment. The importance of the latter is clearly illustrated by this case.

IUNO recommends that companies are aware that although the threshold for a termination to be considered justified is lower for employees in managerial positions than others, the importance of ensuring a safe and healthy working environment should not be underestimated. Co-operational issues and harassment from management is a particular serious situation. Nevertheless, a decision of termination should be the company’s last option. Companies should therefore, as a general rule, actively try to find other solutions before reaching a decision to terminate an employee.

[The Norwegian Agder Court of Appeals’ judgement LA-2021-24736 of 13 September 2021]

A business manager in a municipality was responsible for two home nursing care zones and two sheltered housing facilities. After having been employed for three years, the company was notified about her behavior by five of her employees. To document her behavior, the employees had listed 13 examples of behavior they considered affected the working environment. One example included that she had talked behind their backs, another that she had harassed them, and a third that she had been absent without even completing her own work tasks.

After having been made aware of the problem, she was invited to a discussion meeting. During the meeting, she was offered different alternative roles, similar to her existing position. After she had refused all of the offers, the company terminated her with reference to co-operation issues and the need to ensure a safe and healthy working environment for the other employees.

Because the employee was convinced that the termination was invalid, the case ended before the Norwegian Agder Court of Appeals.

Aggressive and bad management compromised the working environment

Because the employee’s managerial style had substantially affected the working environment in a negative way, the decision to terminate her was justified and valid.

It played an important role in its assessment that the employee had had a managerial role in the company, with the responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for the employees in her section. Her aggressive and toxic leadership had, among other things, clearly resulted in employee representatives refraining from bringing up issues, out of fear if retaliation. Other examples included that the employee had failed to follow up on decisions made at meetings, cancelled co-determination meetings without a reason, showed poor performance in relation to her tasks and duties or expressed a wish that certain employees in her section would resign from their positions. Her employees had also expressed that they felt nervous, scared and uncomfortable around her at the workplace.

The court also emphasized that it was clear that the company had attempted to relocate the employee within the company before terminating her, and that it thereby had attempted to find a better solution for everyone involved before deciding to proceed to termination. When the employee refused to co-operate, the company had had no other options left.

IUNO’s opinion

Companies are both responsible for ensuring a safe and healthy working environment in respect to the physical working environment and the psychosocial working environment. The importance of the latter is clearly illustrated by this case.

IUNO recommends that companies are aware that although the threshold for a termination to be considered justified is lower for employees in managerial positions than others, the importance of ensuring a safe and healthy working environment should not be underestimated. Co-operational issues and harassment from management is a particular serious situation. Nevertheless, a decision of termination should be the company’s last option. Companies should therefore, as a general rule, actively try to find other solutions before reaching a decision to terminate an employee.

[The Norwegian Agder Court of Appeals’ judgement LA-2021-24736 of 13 September 2021]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

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Aurora Braut Bache

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