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Resigning after an anti-Romani shopping experience

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calendar 10 April 2023
globus Sweden

A shop assistant resigned from her job at a retail shop after several racist incidents. While at work, she had been subject to anti-Romani slurs towards her from both colleagues and her managers, which naturally had made her feel unsafe and forced to resign. Despite the hostile workplace environment, the Labour Court ruled that her resignation was not provoked by the company.

At a retail shop in Malmö, a shop assistant resigned from her job because of racist incidents. The incidents included managers instructing the employees to monitor customers of Romani origin who came into the shop. She also felt as if she had been personally subjected to racist comments from the managers and colleagues. All of that had created conflicts and made her feel excluded from the social working environment.

The question in the Labour Court was whether the resignation was provoked by the company and therefore could be seen as a termination.

Resignation was not provoked

The Labour Court found that the resignation was not provoked by the company.

It was clear to the Labour Court that racist comments had been made at the workplace while the employee was present. Therefore, the Labour Court acknowledged that she could have felt unsafe and worried about how she would be treated by the company if her Romani origin became known.

However, the court emphasized that she could have told her managers how she experienced the comments and actions during one-on-one meetings. Since the employee had never told the company that she felt unsafe or why, the resignation was not caused by the company’s behaviour.

IUNO’s opinion

An employee’s resignation is generally binding. However, if the resignation is provoked by the company’s behaviour, an employee’s resignation can be seen as a termination by the company. In that case, the company will be considered to have terminated the employee, and the company would have to prove it was justified. If the company does not have cause, the resignation can be reversed, and the company may risk compensation claims.

IUNO recommends companies to deal with conflicts in the workplace with care. It is useful to document communication with employees where there is a conflict. It is also important that an employee does not feel compelled to resign after a conflict at the workplace. If they do, it can be seen as a provoked resignation. If an employee resigns in a conflict situation, it might be wise to consider giving the employee some time to reflect.

[The Swedish Labour Court’s decision of 1 March 2023 in case 11/23]

At a retail shop in Malmö, a shop assistant resigned from her job because of racist incidents. The incidents included managers instructing the employees to monitor customers of Romani origin who came into the shop. She also felt as if she had been personally subjected to racist comments from the managers and colleagues. All of that had created conflicts and made her feel excluded from the social working environment.

The question in the Labour Court was whether the resignation was provoked by the company and therefore could be seen as a termination.

Resignation was not provoked

The Labour Court found that the resignation was not provoked by the company.

It was clear to the Labour Court that racist comments had been made at the workplace while the employee was present. Therefore, the Labour Court acknowledged that she could have felt unsafe and worried about how she would be treated by the company if her Romani origin became known.

However, the court emphasized that she could have told her managers how she experienced the comments and actions during one-on-one meetings. Since the employee had never told the company that she felt unsafe or why, the resignation was not caused by the company’s behaviour.

IUNO’s opinion

An employee’s resignation is generally binding. However, if the resignation is provoked by the company’s behaviour, an employee’s resignation can be seen as a termination by the company. In that case, the company will be considered to have terminated the employee, and the company would have to prove it was justified. If the company does not have cause, the resignation can be reversed, and the company may risk compensation claims.

IUNO recommends companies to deal with conflicts in the workplace with care. It is useful to document communication with employees where there is a conflict. It is also important that an employee does not feel compelled to resign after a conflict at the workplace. If they do, it can be seen as a provoked resignation. If an employee resigns in a conflict situation, it might be wise to consider giving the employee some time to reflect.

[The Swedish Labour Court’s decision of 1 March 2023 in case 11/23]

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Etgen Reitz

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Etgen Reitz

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