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Can an employee be dismissed for being a ‘negative role model’? In Italy, the answer is yes

Written by
Toffoletto de Luca Tamajo, working in employment law since 1925.
The Italian Supreme Court has held that the dismissal of an employee whose poor conduct was a bad example to junior colleagues was legal.  

The case decided by the Supreme Court on 2 October 2019 in its judgment no. 24619 concerns the dismissal of the manager of a shop who was responsible for various abuses of power while performing her duties. In particular, the manager had been accused of:

  • bringing her personal tailor to the shop to make a dress identical to a model sold in the shop;
  • hiding clothing and other items for sale;
  • wearing clothes that were for sale during working hours;
  • repeatedly leaving the shop without authorisation;
  • repeatedly reprimanding and embarrassing her subordinates, in particular by not providing assistance to a saleswoman who had felt ill while she working and forcing two other colleagues, who were eating lunch at the warehouse table to eat off cardboard on the floor instead.


The Supreme Court ruled that the legitimacy of the dismissal in this case must be assessed taking into account, in addition to the multiplicity of the facts described, the employee’s position within the company as shop manager.

Precisely, given the position of responsibility held by the employee, her conduct had to be assessed taking into account the fact that she had an obligation of diligence stronger than that of the other employees, as well as a duty to behave in such a way as to be a positive reference or a role model for her subordinates.

In other words, the poor conduct of an employee who holds a role of responsibility in a company must also be evaluated in the light of the ‘negative environmental impact’ that this conduct can create. Specifically, by virtue of the professional position held, an employee’s poor conduct can have a bad influence on other subordinate employees, because the example he or she offers does not facilitate the respect of obligations connected to the employment relationship.