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Employee who tried unsuccessfully to attack manager in Italy can be legally fired

Written by
Toffoletto de Luca Tamajo, working in employment law since 1925.
The Italian Supreme Court has ruled that an employee who threatened his manager with a stick could be legally dismissed, even though he was prevented from causing the manager bodily harm.

In a case recently judged by the Supreme Court (judgment no. 22636 of 10 September 2019), an employee had an argument with his manager and brandished a stick but was stopped from using it by two colleagues, then destroyed a business phone by throwing it against the wall. As a result, the employee was dismissed for just cause.

According to the employee, since he only threatened his manager and did not cause him actual bodily harm, his dismissal was unlawful. Instead he argued he should just be punished with conservative sanctions. However, the Supreme Court confirmed the legality of the dismissal.

The Supreme Court clarified that in order to justify dismissal the employee’s behaviour does not necessarily need to cause bodily harm, as previously argued in the court case. Rather, a clash of the type that occurred is characterised by recourse to violence: an expression of physical energy transforming into physical injury, which includes the threat of physical injury, against a person or a thing. As a matter of fact, in the case under scrutiny, there had been recourse to violence when the employee brandished the stick to hit his manager, but was stopped by his colleagues, and destroyed the business phone. No bodily harm was actually caused to the manager, but the behaviour described justified the dismissal for just cause.

In light of the above, violence can be a just cause for dismissal, even if it is just threatened and has not carried out.