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Case Reports

2017/10 Uber drivers found to be workers (UK)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 1 2017
Trefwoorden Employment Tribunal
Auteurs Bethan Carney
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    In a much publicised case, Uber drivers have won a first instance employment tribunal finding that they are ‘workers’ and not self-employed contractors. This decision means that they are entitled to basic protections, such as the national minimum wage, paid holiday (under the Working Time Directive) and protection against detriment for ‘blowing the whistle’ on wrong doing. The decision could have substantial financial consequences for Uber, which has around 40,000 drivers in the UK but Uber has already confirmed that it will appeal the decision, so we are unlikely to have a final determination on this question for some time.


Bethan Carney
Bethan Carney is a lawyer at Lewis Silkin LLP: www.lewissilkin.com.
Case Reports

2017/9 The influence of the threat of terrorism on the right to strike (NL)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 1 2017
Trefwoorden Industrial action, Strike
Auteurs Ruben Houweling en Amber Zwanenburg
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    The Dutch Cantonal judge prohibited a strike because the safety of passengers could not be guaranteed. At the hearing, which took place a few days after the Berlin Christmas market attacks, weight was given to the threat of terrorism. Nor is this the first time the threat of terrorism has been explicitly referred to by a Dutch court in a case concerning the right to strike.


Ruben Houweling
Ruben Houweling and Amber Zwanenburg are respectively a professor and a lecturer of Labour Law at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

Amber Zwanenburg
Case Reports

2016/55 New Supreme Court decision on the distinction between independent contractors and employees (NO)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 4 2016
Trefwoorden Independent contractors, Employees
Auteurs Marianne Jenum Hotvedt en Anne-Beth Engan
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    EU employment protection is usually limited to “employees”, meaning that independent contractors are not covered. However, EU law often leaves it to Member States to determine the meaning of employee. The directives regulating transfers of undertakings, collective redundancies, written working conditions, information and consultation, part-time work, temporary agency workers etc. are all examples of protection covering only ‘employees’ as defined by each Member State.
    Consequently, the interpretation of ‘employee’ at the national level determines whether protection in EU law applies. This case report concerns the distinction between an independent contractor and employee. The question was whether a support worker for a child needing extra care and support should be considered as employed by Ålesund municipality. The majority (4-1) found that the support worker was an employee. The case illustrates how the notion of employee in Norwegian law adapts to new ways of organising work and may be of interest in other jurisdictions.


Marianne Jenum Hotvedt
Marianne Jenum Hotvedt is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Private law, University in Oslo. In 2015, she got her Ph.D. on the thesis ‘The Employer Concept’.

Anne-Beth Engan
Anne-Beth Engan is an associate with Advokatfirmaet Selmer DA in Oslo.

    The Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld an appeal against the finding that a committed Christian teacher who refused to separate from her husband following his conviction for sexual offences would have been dismissed regardless of her faith and therefore such a dismissal was not indirectly discriminatory. The EAT found instead that the Claimant was presented with the choice of having to separate from her husband or be dismissed which subjected people who have a faith-based commitment to marriage to a particular disadvantage.


Laurence Mills
Laurence Mills is an associate at Lewis Silkin LLP: www.lewissilkin.com.

    Article 52(1)(a) of the Romanian Labour Code allows an employer to suspend, without pay, an employee under a disciplinary investigation. However, the Constitutional Court has recently ruled Article 52(1)(a) unconstitutional.


Andreea Suciu
Andreea Suciu is Head of Employment & Pensions with Noerr in Bucharest, www.noerr.com.

    The Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that the general prohibition of Muslim face veils by an employer does not constitute unlawful discrimination. In this landmark decision, Austria’s Supreme Court expresses the view that an uncovered face is a prerequisite to proper communication. Thus, termination of employment by reason of an employee’s refusal to come to work unless she can wear a face veil is not unlawful under the Austrian Equal Treatment Act. Whether this rule also applies to other religious clothing such as headscarves remains to be seen.


Hans Georg Laimer
Hans Georg Laimer is a partner at zeiler.partners Rechtsanwälte GmbH.

Lukas Wieser
Lukas Wieser is an attorney at law at zeiler.partners Rechtsanwälte GmbH.

    The UK Supreme Court has held that the mistreatment of two Nigerian employees based on their vulnerable immigration status, did not amount to direct or indirect discrimination. The question for the Court was whether the employees had been discriminated against on the basis of their nationality. The Court accepted that immigration status is a function of nationality, but that it is not the same thing.


Hayley Band
Hayley Band is a Paralegal at Lewis Silkin LLP, www.lewissilkin.com.
Case Reports

2016/45 Supreme Court rules on social security legislation applicable to temps posted abroad (PL)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 3 2016
Trefwoorden Free movement, social security and temporary agency workers
Auteurs Marcin Wujczyk PhD
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    Temporary agency workers employed by a Polish agency and posted temporarily to France to work there under the direction of a French client are entitled to A1 certificates and, therefore, to remain governed by exclusively Polish social security legislation while working in France.


Marcin Wujczyk PhD
Marcin Wujczyk, PhD., is a partner with Ksiazek Bigaj Wujczyk in Krakow, www.ksiazeklegal.pl.

    A staffing agency rejected an application for an advertised job because the applicant refused to remove her hijab. The court of first instance saw no discrimination, the Court of Appeal did. The plaintiff was awarded €500 but had to bear her own legal expenses.


Caterina Rucci
Caterina Rucci is a partner at Bird & Bird in Milan, www.twobirds.com.

    The Supreme Court of Lithuania recently affirmed that the courts have no competence to assess the merits of an employer’s decision to restructure and make staff redundant, as the decision was at the employer’s discretion to make.


Inga Klimašauskienė
Inga Klimašauskienė is an Associate Partner at GLIMSTEDT Law Firm in Vilnius, www.glimstedt.lt.

    A decision issued by the Constitutional Court on 3 March 2016 upholds a High Court decision on whether evidence obtained through video surveillance at the work place without previously informing the employee or the works council of the recording infringes employees’ privacy. The existence of cameras in the workplace was only made known via a sticker on the shop window, but the Constitutional Court found that it provided sufficient information to employees. The Court found that, as there was a prior suspicion of theft by the employee, temporary recording of the cashier area was lawful and did not require prior consent. The judgment sets out the criteria to be used to determine a fair balance between the competing interests of employee privacy and the employer’s right to compliance.


Sonia Cortes
Sonia Cortes is a partner with Abdón Pedrajas & Molero in Barcelona, www.abdonpedrajas.com. Special thanks to Isabel Ruano and Carla Baussa for their help in preparing this case report.

    Following the latest case law of the Supreme Court of Lithuania, it is not enough to state that an employee cannot work for a competitor during their employment. It is necessary to pay compensation in order for the non-compete obligation to be legally enforceable, because of the onerous nature of the obligation.


Inga Klimašauskienė
Inga Klimašauskienė is an Associate Partner at GLIMSTEDT in Vilnius, www.glimstedt.lt.

    The employee, a public servant, criticised her employer’s director in an email that she sent all of her co-workers. The email made its way into a newspaper. She was dismissed. She challenged her dismissal successfully: the Supreme Court, weighing the employee’s right to freedom of speech against the employer’s right to protect its reputation and business interests, held the dismissal to be unfounded.


Nives Slemenjak
Nives Slemenjak is an associate at Schoenherr, in Ljubljana: www.schoenherr.eu.

    A general prohibition against displaying religious, political and philosophical symbols constitutes indirect discrimination which fails to meet the proportionality requirement. In this case the court took account of the fact that it was possible for the employer to distinguish between back-office and front-office work (the claimant worked in a back office position) and also because of the absence of complaints by colleagues or clients and the absence of any attempt by the claimant to encourage other women to wear a headscarf.


Gautier Busschaert
Gautier Busschaert is a lawyer with Van Olmen & Wynant in Brussels, www.Vow.be.
Case Reports

2016/33 Supreme Court clarifies rules on redundancy selection methods (NO)

Tijdschrift European Employment Law Cases, Aflevering 2 2016
Trefwoorden Redundancy selection
Auteurs Tore Lerheim en Ole Kristian Olsby
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    The basic rule in Norwegian law is that an employer planning to reduce headcount must apply the rules for selecting those to be dismissed (based on seniority, qualifications, personal circumstances, etc.) to the entire workforce within the relevant legal entity. However, there are circumstances under which the employer may limit the pool of employees within which to apply those rules. In this case, the employer was justified in limiting that pool to one employee, thereby avoiding the need to make a selection.


Tore Lerheim
Tore Lerheim and Ole Kristian Olsby are partners with Homble Olsby advokatfirma in Oslo, www.Homble-olsby.no.

Ole Kristian Olsby

    An ‘independent contractor’ working for a company in a subordinate relationship should be considered as a de facto employee. In such a situation, the company and its legal representatives can be held liable for ‘concealed work’ and be subject to criminal penalties.


Charles Mathieu
Charles Mathieu is a lawyer with Jeantet in Paris, www.jeantet.fr.

    An employee’s behaviour during the investigation of a sexual harassment complaint that she had made against her manager was a crucial factor in the Court’s decision to dismiss her application for damages for unlawful termination and discrimination.


Panayiota Papakyriacou
Panayiota Papakyriacou is a lawyer with George Z. Georgiou & Associates LLC in Nicosia, Cyprus, www.gzg.com.cy.

    In accordance with EU law, the prohibition against gender-based discrimination (in this case: dismissal relating to pregnancy) cannot be limited to employment relationships as defined in national law: it must also apply to other types of legal relationship, where one party provides services to another party for consideration, for an open-ended period of time under the supervision of a principal.


Gabriella Ormai
Gabriella Ormai is a partner and

Péter Bán
Péter Bán is senior counsel with CMS Cameron McKenna LLP, www.cms-cmck.com.

    A 60-year old widow with a house but without income other than a small widow’s pension has successfully challenged legislation that moved the qualification age for state pension benefits from 65 to 67. A court has found that, in her particular case, the legislation constitutes an “individual and excessive burden” within the meaning of ECtHR case law on the First Protocol to the ECHR. The government was ordered to start paying the widow state pension from age 65 despite and contrary to the wording of the law.


Peter Vas Nunes
Peter Vas Nunes is an advocaat with BarentsKrans in The Hague, www.barentskrans.nl.

    A day care provider, Estro Groep B.V., (‘Estro’) went into pre-arranged (‘pre-pack’) receivership. Immediately afterwards, a large part of its business was taken over by another day care provider, Smallsteps B.V. (‘Smallsteps’). The latter did not offer employment to all of Estro’s employees, taking the position that the takeover did not constitute the transfer of an undertaking. This position was based on the fact that Estro was in receivership at the time of the takeover. According to the Dutch law transposing the Acquired Rights Directive, such takeovers are exempted from the rules on transfers of undertakings. A union and five of the employees whom Smallsteps had not offered jobs, relying on the wording of Article 5(1) of the Directive (“insolvency proceedings which have been instituted with a view to the liquidation of the assets”), claimed that they had become Smallsteps employees. The court referred questions to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling.


Peter Vas Nunes
Peter Vas Nunes is an advocaat with BarentsKrans in The Hague, www.barentskrans.nl.
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