INFOFLASH LABOUR MAY 2024

The employer is also responsible in the case of a stressful work environment

The Supreme Court, recently, has expressed itself with several judgments regarding the protection of the psycho-physical health of workers and the related responsibility of the employer.

According to the Supreme Court, expressed in two recent judgments of January 19th  and February 16th, 2024, the employer’s responsibility would be outlined not only in the presence of behaviors so serious as to constitute “mobbing” which is characterized as a systematic and prolonged conduct over time that, due to its harassing characteristics, causes injury to the psycho-physical integrity and moral personality of the worker (in the same sense, Supreme Court no. 7641/2022 and Supreme Court no. 12473/2018) but also simply if the employer adopts behaviors aimed at creating stressful working conditions or does not implement measures to avoid it.

With judgment no. 2084 of January 19th, 2024, in particular, the Supreme Court stated that “the protection of the psycho-physical integrity of the worker does not allow for discounts, due to factors such as inevitability, inevitability, economic and productive feasibility, in the preparation of safe environmental conditions.”

Based on this assumption, according to the Supreme Court, the employer has the duty to refrain from initiatives, choices, or behaviors that may in some way harm the moral personality of the employer. And, in this sense, his responsibility is outlined where, even “culpably” he adopts stressful working conditions, a source of harm to the health of workers, or not respectful of a safe work design for workers, even in the absence of acts that can be classified as “mobbing.”

The Supreme Court, echoing its previous decisions, highlights in this judgment how the employer’s responsibility is outlined where he allows the maintenance of a stressful work environment, a source of harm to the health of workers.

What matters, “beyond the taxonomy and qualification as mobbing and straining” (…), is that the act committed, even if isolated, is an unlawful act under Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code from which the violation of the worker’s protected interests at the highest level of the legal system has resulted, namely his psycho-physical integrity, dignity, personal identity, participation in social and political life.

In the same sense, with the recent judgement no. 4279 of February 16th, 2024, the Supreme Court noted that where the elements of “mobbing” are found to be absent – which as mentioned above, is characterized as a systematic and prolonged conduct over time that, due to its harassing characteristics, causes injury to the psycho-physical integrity and moral personality of the worker – it is necessary to evaluate and ascertain the possible responsibility of the employer for having, even inadvertently, failed to prevent a “stressful” work environment from causing harm to the health of its workers, even simply with reference to a tense work climate characterized by mutual misunderstandings.

In general, according to Supreme Court no. 4279 of February 16th, 2024, the employer must not engage in behaviors that cause discomfort and stress to employees.

The employer, based on the provision of Article 2087 of the Italian Civil Code, has a general obligation to protect workers; being responsible for the psycho-physical well-being of the latter and, in this regard, having to adopt all measures that, according to the particular nature of the work, experience, and technique, are necessary to protect the physical integrity and moral personality of workers.

According to the judgment of the Supreme Court no. 4279 of February 16th, 2024, these measures would also include the removal of a tense work climate characterized by mutual misunderstandings.

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