Example: dismissal for personal reasons

Customer story

“I came to miss my previous boss”

Saara, 28, product development engineer

Our company went through organisational changes as the result of a merger, and I got a new boss in the process. From the get-go, I could sense that we weren’t on the same page. I felt as though he didn’t like anything I said or did. Everything about me seemed to annoy him. Maybe my opinions were somehow too radical for him. I came to miss my previous boss, who often said I was creative and outspoken.

Little by little, I noticed that my new boss would shoot down ideas one after another. He gave me tasks that felt irrelevant to the projects we had going on and the pressures we were facing. Even my coworkers began wondering what was going on.

Since late winter, my work motivation has slumped. At the performance review, my boss couldn’t find anything positive to say about my work when in my opinion, the problem was precisely that he wouldn’t let me do anything useful.

Just before the summer holidays, I was really tired of all the vagueness – maybe even a little depressed. Maybe that's why I was so perplexed when one morning, my boss swaggered into my room and threw my notice of dismissal on the table. I couldn’t believe what was happening!

When I finally collected myself, I asked why I was being dismissed. He replied nonchalantly that for several months, he’s observed my work and came to the conclusion that I’m not cut out for the job.

I did a little research on the YTK Association’s website and found out that you can’t just dismiss somebody without a clear reason. And certainly not without giving several warnings first. I called the association’s adviser who confirmed the matter. I was told to call a lawyer who can help me with the case going forward.

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

What does Lakikaveri say?

Saara’s story is a case of termination of the employment contract by the employer on what appear to be personal reasons. The Employment Contracts Act contains provisions for the procedure for dismissing an employee and terminating the employment contract which both the employer and employee must follow.

First, before terminating the employment contract, the employer must issue a warning to give the employee an opportunity to correct their conduct, unless the infringement is so severe that the employer cannot reasonably be required to continue the employment relationship. Dismissal without warning usually happens in situations where it is not reasonable for the employer to give the employee an opportunity to correct their conduct due to dishonesty by the employee or other permanent lack of confidence. In other words, a warning should always be given if the employee behaves with negligence in the employment relationship or fails to perform in their duties in the manner which the employer can reasonably expect. The warning lets the employee know how serious a violation the employer considers the employee’s conduct to be. Issuing a warning before terminating the employment is a basic requirement for a lawful dismissal. If, despite the warning, the employee does not improve their conduct in performing their duties, the employee may be dismissed.

In addition to issuing a warning, the law requires that before the employer dismisses an employee for personal reasons, the employer must reserve the employee an opportunity to be heard about the reasons for dismissal. The employee must also be aware that the hearing is specifically related to the dismissal. At the hearing, the employer must state the reasons for which it is considering terminating the employee's employment contract. If the hearing is held only as a formality and the employer has effectively already made the decision to dismiss the employee, the employer is in violation of its legal obligation to hear the employee.

After the hearing and before dismissing the employee, the employer must also investigate whether the dismissal can be avoided by assigning the employee new duties. However, if the reason for dismissal is an employment-related violation severe enough that the employer cannot reasonably be expected to continue the relationship, there is no need to comply with this obligation.

Based on Saara’s story, it would appear that the employer has failed to comply with its normal obligations: issuing a warning, holding a hearing and investigating whether the dismissal could be avoided by assigning Saara other duties. Violating the provisions of the law on issuing a warning and assigning other duties may mean that the dismissal is unlawful, as a result of which the employer may be ordered to pay compensation for an unjustified termination of the employment contract. Violations of the obligation to hold a hearing are not separately penalised but may be taken into account when deciding on the amount of compensation in cases of unlawful dismissal.

​​​​​​​Hillevi Kontturi-Karvinen
OTM, Joensuu
​​​​​​​Asianajotoimisto Kontturi & Co Oy

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