Transgressive behaviour and mandatory cuddling with director

Employee entitled to fair compensation of €50,000 gross

Faithful readers of our articles will know it by now: in case of serious culpable conduct by an employer, an employee may be entitled to fair compensation. So too in the case we discuss this week, in which the director did make a very bad job in the workplace. Read more:

What were the facts?

We do not see it very often: a request for dissolution of an employment contract submitted not by the employer, but by the employee. The employee in question had been working as a logistics employee for the employer, a manufacturer of industrial knives, since 1 March 2017. It is a family business: the director's wife and son also work there.

On 25 June 2020, employee reports sick and on 18 September that year, he reports sexual assault by the director to the police. Subsequently, as mentioned above, the employee goes to the subdistrict court with a request to dissolve his employment contract, granting a transitional payment and fair compensation of €175,000 gross.

The employee argued that there was systematic and prolonged (sexually) transgressive behaviour by the director: according to the employee, the director regularly made sexual remarks by way of "joking" and there was unwanted touching. The director also insists, according to the employee, that employees give him a 'good hug' when they enter. But it did not stop there: the director is even alleged to have touched employee's buttocks and genitals on several occasions. All this had a great impact on employee.

However, the director did not think there was any cross-border behaviour at all: there would be friendly and familiar manners and a non-sexual 'cuddle culture'.

Judgment of the Subdistrict Court

The subdistrict court found that there were enough grounds to dissolve the employment contract. This employer had also acted seriously culpable, according to the subdistrict court judge: by today's social standards, there was indeed transgressive behaviour and an unsafe working environment.

The subdistrict judge ruled that it was completely inappropriate and unacceptable to require employees to cuddle with the director. That there would be a "cuddling culture" or a "family-style of manners", the cantonal court gave short shrift to that. Moreover, cuddling should only be done with the director; employees do not do that among themselves.

Concluding remarks

In short: the employment contract is dissolved and the employee is awarded transitional compensation plus fair compensation of €50,000 gross.

You can read the ruling - including all the facts of the case - here.

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