Unjustified dismissal of director despite sexism and militant posts

However, according to the court in Noord-Holland, the employer is responsible for the irreparably damaged employment relationship, shows a decision published yesterday.

Generous salary

In 2020, the man was hired as a director of the Dutch division of the American air freight company. In that position, he earned a monthly salary of more than 14,000 euros and he participated in a bonus and share plan.

But over the last year, things went awry after a few incidents. In August, the parent company’s CEO announced, among other things, the director by e-mail that he should focus less on insignificant matters in order to focus on the growth of the company.

burn out

In October, the director reported sick with burnout complaints. A day later, the company announced that it would get rid of him. Later that month, the man was fired as statutory director during a general meeting.

The CEO was removed from office because the company said he was not a team player, failed to live up to the CEO’s expectations in the August email, had an old-fashioned view of the company’s business and distorted its management team.

Unwanted behavior

After the man took his title as statutory director, the company went to court to also terminate his employment contract. The employer also presented a number of examples of unwanted behavior.

For example, an anonymous statement was supposed to show that the man had asked for the body of a female colleague during a drink that had only been visible ‘from her breasts’ during a previous online Teams meeting. When colleagues kept quiet and pointed out that his comments were inappropriate, he would have laughed at it.

The man also praised all kinds of messages of a military nature on his account on the networking site Linkedin, for example about weapons, ammunition and veterans. He would have ignored advice from colleagues to be more careful on social media. And for the Sinterklaas party, he would have wanted the original Zwarte Pieten instead of soot napkins.

Claims for compensation

The director was not happy with his dismissal and demanded his job back in court. In the event that he had to leave, he demanded severance pay and compensation totaling more than 330,000 euros and the option to exercise options.

According to the man, there are no malfunctions at all. In addition, the company should not have fired him because he was ill.

Return impossible

A ruling from March, published on Wednesday, shows that the city court of Noord-Holland does not agree with the latter defense. Because the application for dismissal is separate from his illness, sick leave does not stand in the way of the dismissal.

The judge further ruled that the director can no longer return to the air carrier because the employment relationship has been irreparably damaged.

But in the end, the court in Haarlem mainly rejected the employer because it would be the company’s fault that the employment relationship became sour.

Employer guilty

Prior to the dismissal and subsequent, the employer, according to the judge, made serious mistakes. For example, the company was unable to substantiate all the allegations against the director. The company also did not discuss the criticism with the man in a timely manner, and did not give him sufficient opportunity for improvement.

The airline also undertook a far-reaching invasion of the director’s privacy by secretly recording conversations and searching his IT environment, including emails.

Locks broken

The manner in which the employer seized the company’s laptop, which the director did not want to hand over immediately, was also disproportionate, according to the judge. In doing so, the firm sent a bailiff to the man’s house, prompting police to break his locks.

Because the employer ‘has acted seriously guilty’, it must pay the dismissed director a compensation of 100,000 euros. That amount comes on top of the ordinary transitional payment of more than 10,000 euros and the compensation of almost 4,000 euros in legal costs.

Appeal

Lawyer Jorgo Tsiris from the logistics company did not call back with a real answer, but said that his client has now appealed the verdict.

The director’s lawyer, Janna van der Kamp, says he is generally satisfied with the verdict. “The way the judge has assessed the employer’s actions gives my client some satisfaction. We look forward to the appeal with confidence.”

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