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Unjustified to summarily dismiss employee who harassed his colleagues

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calendar 24 April 2022
globus Sweden

After having been employed for many years, an employee was summarily dismissed after the company received reports that he was harassing his female colleagues. The employee had a disability which made him unable to realize how his actions were perceived. In that light – although recognizing that the behaviour was unacceptable – the Swedish Labour Court found the summary dismissal unjustified.

A large state-owned company had the purpose to create meaningful and developing jobs for people with disabilities, who were assigned work at the company. One of these employees was deaf and had cerebral palsy.

He had worked for the company for many years, but during the last couple of years, claims of harassment from female colleagues had emerged. One colleague had for example received text messages from him, asking her for a meet-up several times. Other colleagues reported more brief episodes, on coffee breaks for example, where the employee had made a pouting mouth and formed his hands into the shape of a heart. The affected colleagues were very bothered by the behaviour.

Due to the harassments, the company summarily dismissed the employee. At the time of the summary dismissal, he did not work at the same place of work as any of the female colleagues he had harassed.

Additional responsibility to solve problems within the company

According to the Swedish Labour Court, the summary dismissal was unjustified. The employee’s actions were unacceptable, and his behaviour was not something that anyone should have to tolerate at a place of work. However, the court also recognized that the actions were due to the employee’s disability, which also affected his ability to realize how his female colleagues were perceiving him.

The court emphasized that due to the nature of the company’s special tasks, the company had a special, increased responsibility, to try to solve the problems internally before proceeding to a summary dismissal. This meant that the company had to initiate other sanctions or measures to attempt to address the issue first. Namely because of the employee’s disability and the fact that he no longer worked at the same place of work as the female colleagues, the court considered that a summary dismissal was not proportional.

IUNO’s opinion

This case shows the importance of knowing what obligations companies have towards their employees. It is important to understand what can be done to deal with problems that arise within the company, without having to take such drastic measures as summarily dismissing someone.

IUNO recommends that companies review their own actions and make sure that they have done everything that they need to do before summarily dismissing an employee, to make sure that the measure is proportional. A summary dismissal is an intrusive sanction, but also the best solution would if an issue cannot be remedied despite other attempts.

[The Swedish Labour Court's decision of 23 March 2022 in case 15/2022]

A large state-owned company had the purpose to create meaningful and developing jobs for people with disabilities, who were assigned work at the company. One of these employees was deaf and had cerebral palsy.

He had worked for the company for many years, but during the last couple of years, claims of harassment from female colleagues had emerged. One colleague had for example received text messages from him, asking her for a meet-up several times. Other colleagues reported more brief episodes, on coffee breaks for example, where the employee had made a pouting mouth and formed his hands into the shape of a heart. The affected colleagues were very bothered by the behaviour.

Due to the harassments, the company summarily dismissed the employee. At the time of the summary dismissal, he did not work at the same place of work as any of the female colleagues he had harassed.

Additional responsibility to solve problems within the company

According to the Swedish Labour Court, the summary dismissal was unjustified. The employee’s actions were unacceptable, and his behaviour was not something that anyone should have to tolerate at a place of work. However, the court also recognized that the actions were due to the employee’s disability, which also affected his ability to realize how his female colleagues were perceiving him.

The court emphasized that due to the nature of the company’s special tasks, the company had a special, increased responsibility, to try to solve the problems internally before proceeding to a summary dismissal. This meant that the company had to initiate other sanctions or measures to attempt to address the issue first. Namely because of the employee’s disability and the fact that he no longer worked at the same place of work as the female colleagues, the court considered that a summary dismissal was not proportional.

IUNO’s opinion

This case shows the importance of knowing what obligations companies have towards their employees. It is important to understand what can be done to deal with problems that arise within the company, without having to take such drastic measures as summarily dismissing someone.

IUNO recommends that companies review their own actions and make sure that they have done everything that they need to do before summarily dismissing an employee, to make sure that the measure is proportional. A summary dismissal is an intrusive sanction, but also the best solution would if an issue cannot be remedied despite other attempts.

[The Swedish Labour Court's decision of 23 March 2022 in case 15/2022]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

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Hessellund Klausen

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Kirsten

Astrup

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Cecillie

Groth Henriksen

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