In line with recent case law of the European Court of Human Rights, the Senate points to the link between labour law and private life in labour dispute
21 August, 2019
On August 20, the Department of Civil Cases of the Supreme Court (Senate) annulled the judgment of the Riga Regional Court and referred the labour dispute regarding violation of the principle of equality for re-examination. The judgement by the Senate draws attention to recent case law findings of the European Court of Human Rights stating that employment disputes are not in themselves excluded from the scope of "private life" within the meaning of Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
The Senate in its judgment refers to the finding already established in Latvian case law that the prohibition of unequal treatment provided for in the Labour Law (Section 29 of the Labour Law) is aimed at the objective stipulated in Section 7, Paragraph One of the Labour Law of ensuring equal right to work, fair, safe and healthy working conditions, as well as right to fair remuneration. According to the case law referred to above, conduct in the form of mobbing or bossing may be regarded as constituting a violation of the "equal right to work", the right to "fair working conditions". In order to determine compensation for non-material damage for mobbing or bossing (in other words, for emotional/psychological violence, psychical aggression against an employee) under Section 29, Paragraph eight of the Labour Law, the court must verify whether the evidence in the case supports such conduct by the employer.
In addition, the Senate draws attention to the judgment of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights of 25 September 2018 in the case of Denisov v. Ukraine. The Senate concluded that the applicability of Article 8 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms to a labour dispute is either preceded by an employer's adverse decision regarding some facts related to employee's private life, or that the decision has affected the privacy of the employee. Nevertheless, the employee must prove that any aspect of the employee's private life has been significantly influenced by the employer's conduct (e.g. dismissal of the employee, demotion, salary reductions, etc.), namely, the adverse effects on the employee's private life have to be indicated.
The appellate court has not carried out the above assessment, thus it has applied Section 29, Paragraph Eight of the Labour Law without justification, which could have led to a misjudgement of the case.
The circumstances in the case are as follows:
The claim has been brought before the court by a limited liability company (SIA) regarding termination of employment with an employee on the basis of Section 101, Paragraph One, Clause 1 of the Labour Law (the employee has, without justification, materially violated the employment contract and disregarded working hours), Section 110, Paragraph Four, and Section 130. Whereas, the employee filed a counterclaim for a declaration that the termination of the employment relationship was unlawful and for recovery of non-material damage. The defendant, an employee, has pointed out to the court that working conditions have been aggravated and burdensome for the employee while denying access to the workplace and asking for explanations for absenteeism. According to the defendant, the applicant's actions reflect a difference in the attitude of the employer towards the defendant in proposing to conclude a new version of the employment contract whereby the workplace would be located in premises of the security post and not in an office. This attitude shall be regarded as discriminatory in view of the defendant's position of the project manager and his former social status among other employees. According to the employee, the applicant exerted continuous psychological pressure on the defendant, urging him to file an application for termination of his employment, causing the defendant stress and emotional distress.
By the judgment of 29 October 2018, the Riga Regional Court upheld the claim, namely, it terminated the employment contract; the counterclaim was partially upheld: in favour of the defendant it recovered from the applicant EUR 1000 for non-material damage and the costs of attorney's fees of EUR 2850 and collected from the applicant a State fee of EUR 61.24 related to conduct of proceedings; the counterclaim was dismissed in so far as it stated that the dismissal order was unlawful, as well as regarding the request for recovery of the outstanding sum of EUR 12 968.42 and the sum of EUR 9000 in respect of non-material damage.
Case No SKC-605/2019; C33586617
Information prepared by Baiba Kataja, the Press Secretary of the Supreme Court
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