Example: Bullying, belittlement and dismissal in violation of the Employment Contracts Act

Customer story

“After a while, all I could do was stare at the wall.”

Riitta, 59, sales clerk

I worked for a kiosk owner who was constantly guilty of all sorts of violations of the collective agreement. I’ve owned a kiosk myself for a long time and I know damn well what is and isn’t allowed. My boss was annoyed that I knew how things should be done and by the fact that I spoke out about every violation. He bullied and belittled me daily in a way that clearly ticked all the boxes for workplace harassment.

When I was on sick leave for a legitimate physical condition, the boss texted me out of nowhere saying that he’s letting me go for financial and production-related reasons. I was confused and asked him to send me the notice of dismissal by mail. I replied saying that he’d either bring it himself or wait for me to visit the kiosk so that he can hand it to me in person. I told him I was on sick leave and didn’t want him in my home.

The text message about the dismissal seemed to have been the last straw as the boss had acted really unpleasantly towards me for a long while. I found myself feeling down because of the texts and after a while, all I could do was stare at the wall. Above all, I’m worried about losing my job since I know that at my age, finding a new job is not exactly a walk in the park. Even normal, everyday routines have become almost overwhelming. Luckily, a friend noticed my depression and encouraged me to go see a doctor.

During the past few months, the doctor has been a big support for me. She’s helped me gather the courage and strength to go to the workplace and face my boss waiting with the notice of dismissal. I’ve never been in a similar situation before, and I’m worried that I’ll do something wrong or sign an agreement that is somehow not in my favour. I feel that my brain isn’t working properly because of the overwhelming feeling of anxiety. That’s why I’m turning to Lakikaveri for help.

What does Lakikaveri legal service say?

All employers must comply with a universally binding collective agreement if one exists for the industry. The collective agreement for the retail sector, which is valid for kiosks, is universally binding and therefore equal to legislation that all employers in the industry must follow.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the employer is obligated to take care of the health and safety of employees at work. Bullying and belittlement are harassment and, as such, in violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. The employer must, by the means at their disposal, take action to end harassment which endangers or causes harm to the employee’s health. Compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act at workplaces is monitored by the Regional State Administrative Agencies’ occupational safety and health division. Violations of the Act may also be deemed criminal offences.

According to the Employment Contracts Act, dismissal on financial or production-related grounds can only be done for an appropriate and weighty reason if the employer's available work has decreased substantially and permanently. In addition, the Employment Contracts Act requires that employees must primarily be reassigned or trained to new duties, and that dismissal is always the option of last resort. According to the Employment Contracts Act, an employee's illness, disability or accident cannot generally be considered appropriate and weighty grounds for dismissal.

Riitta may accept the notice of dismissal but should not sign any agreements until she has discussed the matter with a lawyer from the Lakikaveri service. The potential dismissal appears to be contrary to the Employment Contracts Act. According to the law, the employee is entitled to 3 to 24 months of wages as compensation for a wrongful termination of employment. The amount of compensation depends on factors such as the length of the employment relationship, the employee's future employment opportunities and the reprehensibility of the dismissal procedure. Lakikaveri can help Riitta secure her rights and receive the compensation to which she is entitled.

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