At this time of Christmas parties, we bring you a decision adopted by the French equivalent of the Supreme Court, which dealt with the case of the dismissal of a consultant in a managerial position on the grounds that he did not attend social work events that involved excessive alcohol consumption and unbridled celebrations and thus failed to reflect the company’s values which include fun and passion and are also valued by its business clients and partners. These, at least, are the employer’s reasons for the employee’s dismissal from his senior position.
In its judgment at the end of November of this year, the French Court of Cassation ruled that the man has the right to “freedom of expression” and that refusing to participate in social activities was a “fundamental right” under labor and human rights laws, and not grounds for his dismissal.
It is not only in France that purely social events are optional, although as far as we are aware the highest courts in the Czech Republic have not had to consider the justification for dismissal on the grounds of not attending them. This will also apply to company Christmas parties and similar “shindigs”.
Participation in teambuilding events may be judged differently if they can be considered as performance of work tasks or at least as a situation directly connected to the performance of work tasks. This will have to be assessed in a specific case depending on the program, for example whether it contains training or some other program improving the employee’s qualifications. Further, if an employer organizes events for clients, it can also reasonably expect that employees whose job description includes looking after clients, will attend.
The nature of the work event as leisure or otherwise (relating to performance of work tasks/job description) is important not only for assessing whether non-attendance can be considered a breach of work duties, as in the unusual French case: In the Czech Republic too, the highest courts have addressed the nature of teambuilding events, in order to assess claims arising from work-related injuries.
We therefore wish all employers a smooth process that does not end up in court.