Example: Interference in personal life

Customer story

“At that point, I’d had enough”

Kari, 34, auto mechanic

My wife and I had a baby during the pandemic and we were making plans for the baptism ceremony. I’d asked a coworker to be the godfather, and the topic of the baptism came up at work. My boss, who’s clearly scared of the coronavirus, said that if we go through with the baptism, me and my coworker would both need to stay on unpaid leave for a week as in his opinion, we’d be risking our coworkers’ health by hosting a family event.

In my view, my boss has no right interfering with my personal life in such a way. I told him that I don’t mind him giving us leave from our work duties but that he’ll still need to pay us.

After a little wringing, the boss did pay us but gave me and my friend a formal warning. At that point, I almost got mad and said that I’d dispute the warning as unjustified. He was annoyed with my “attitude” and suggested that we’d terminate my employment by mutual agreement. I obviously didn’t agree to that. After that, the boss reduced my hours to a minimum and on top of that, accused me of theft despite having no evidence of such. At the same time, I noticed that all my overtime pay was missing from my payslip. At that point, I’d had enough and called the lawyer from Lakikaveri, who promised to look into the case to find the most sensible course of action.

The story is based on real events, but the details have been changed for privacy reasons.

What does Lakikaveri say?

The employer does not have the right to interfere with employees’ personal life, such as by prohibiting an employee from hosting or participating in a baptism. However, the employer has an obligation to ensure the safety of employees at the workplace, including against the risk of catching the coronavirus. The employer must assess the risk of infection and order the employee to work remotely if necessary. If the employee’s duties cannot be performed remotely or changed, the employee can agree to use their annual holiday or other leave. If this is not possible and the employee is in self-imposed quarantine, it may be the case that the work is prevented due to a reason with the employee, in which case the employer is not obligated to pay wages.

In this situation, it would be justified to require the employer to organise work at the workplace in a way that minimises the risk of infection resulting from close contact.

The employer is obligated to inform the employee of the reason for issuing a warning. Based on the description of events, the employer was not justified in issuing a warning. On the other hand, the employee disputing the warning is not relevant in the case. Instead, whether or not the warning was justified is assessed in the event that the employment relationship is terminated.

By law, employers must treat employees equally. Unilaterally reducing an employee’s hours without a justified reason may constitute discrimination even if the number of hours remains within the limits of the employment contract. In any case, lawful overtime compensation must always be paid. If the employer refuses to pay despite being requested to do so, they may be claimed by filing a civil action with a district court.

If the employer has accused the employee of theft without evidence, this may constitute a case of libel, for example. In this case, the employee has the right to file a police report, but we recommend first discussing the matter with the employer with the assistance of YTK’s lawyer in order to see if the matter can be settled amicably.

​​​​​​​Roope Tsupari
asianajaja, Kuopio
Asianajotoimisto Forte Oy

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