A top French court has ruled that you cannot fire an employee on the grounds that he isn’t “fun” enough and won’t partake in work drinks and team-building activities, in what could be a landmark decision.
Mr T, who has not been named, was a senior adviser for Cubik Partners, a Parisian management consultancy and training company that promises to “make management more humanist again while durably improving performance”.
The group said it manages to keep operational excellence training from becoming too dry and boring by applying a “fun and pro” approach.
In that spirit, it organised a host of social events for staff to bolster team spirit.
When Mr T refused to take part in these, the company – which also accused the ex-employee of being square and boring, difficult to work with and a poor listener – decided to fire him in 2015 on the grounds of “professional inadequacy” and because he lacked the party spirit it was seeking to promote.
However, Mr T argued that he simply did not share the company’s definition of “fun” and that he was entitled to “critical behaviour and to refuse company policy based on incitement to partake in various excesses”.
Seven years later, Paris’ Court of Cassation finally agreed with him.
‘Humiliating and intrusive’
In its ruling, made earlier this month but only revealed this week, the appeals court pointed out that it was not everyone’s cup of tea to “forcibly participate in seminars and end-of-week drinks frequently ending up in excessive alcohol intake, encouraged by associates who made very large quantities of alcohol available”.
Nor was it everyone’s definition of “fun” to engage in “practices linking promiscuity, bullying and incitement to get involved in various forms of excess and misconduct”.
It said that the company’s values of “fun” violated the ex-employee’s “fundamental right to dignity and respect of private life” and that he was simply exercising his “freedom of expression” by not taking part.
Their “fun and pro” culture translated, in fact, into “humiliating and intrusive practices regarding privacy such as simulated sexual acts, the obligation to share a bed with a colleague during seminars, the use of nicknames to designate people and hanging up deformed and made-up photos in offices”, said the court in its ruling.
It ordered Cubik Partners to pay the ex-employee €3,000 (£2,574).
However, he has demanded a further €461,000 (£395,630) in damages – a request that the court will examine at a later date.
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