Farting to get the team out of the office? A joke in bad taste that justifies dismissal

CA Paris 31 May 2022 – RG n°20/02985

It is said that social law is a living law, and the cases examined every day in the courts are a constant reminder of this.

The one studied below is no exception to the rule, far from it.

In a case of… ‘prout’ (yes, you read that right) the Court recalls that inappropriate behaviour by employees can lead to dismissal, which is perfectly justified.

 

– An employee who does not lack air

In this case, the employee, a sales manager, was dismissed for real and serious reasons following a “total lack of decorum, social behaviour and especially hygiene”.

He considered that the dismissal was unjustified and took his case to the industrial tribunal.

What about it?

Let’s look at the (singular) facts of the case in order to appreciate…

It starts with a women’s toilet so dirty that the cleaning lady herself is disgusted. When an employee complains about their condition (complaints from colleagues at office level), the sales manager blames it on the customers and tells them that they don’t have to use the toilets “even if they shit on the walls I don’t care!

Except that the video surveillance shows that the only person who used them was… the sales manager himself!

It does not stop there.

This same manager thought he could make a comment about a salesman’s weight and tell him that he had put on weight and that he “had a belly”.

To conclude the conversation, he has no other idea than to let out a “particularly foul-smelling” fart, indicating “they had to get out” “the obligatory weapon”. He will repeat the same, singular, technique with another employee.

Other grievances are mentioned, which are more ancillary and more “classic” (lateness, irritation, inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues and customers). For example, he may have told salespeople who arrive earlier in the morning that the company will not “pay [leurs] To another who tries to solve a customer problem “you’re ridiculous, you’re crazy, you’re dropping your trousers”.

Experience has shown that there is no stopping some employees and all subterfuges are used to contest their dismissal.

In this case, the sales manager is firing on all cylinders:

  • its dismissal? it would hide “radical” discrimination on the part of the employer who refused to make him Agency Manager. As he refused to remain in the position of Sales Manager, the company dismissed him on spurious grounds,
  • its attitude? He is said to have suffered an accumulation of reproaches and to have suffered from depression because of the employer’s failure to fulfil his safety obligation,
  • video surveillance? the evidence is illicit,
  • on smelly farts? it is involuntary flatulence (trying to justify it by a gastric problem and thus linking it to his state of health).

 

– A Court committed to the rule of law

Although the facts of the case may lead one to smile, the Court remains phlegmatic and does what it knows how to do: law.

On the origin of the state of the toilets, the Court takes note of the company agreement on the use of surveillance means. It notes that there is a joint review between management and two staff representatives. As the company did not produce any evidence that the staff representatives had observed that it was indeed the employee who was leaving the women’s toilets, the proof was not legally established. The adage that “doubt benefits the employee” should apply (legal rules are designed to protect those responsible, as is well known…).

With regard to discrimination, the objective elements produced by the company made it possible to quickly dismiss these allegations (in this case, career development, salary increases, professional interviews, the organisation of the company, etc.).

As regards the alleged breach of the safety obligation, there is no evidence to link the depression to working conditions.

As for the allegedly involuntary farts, the Court was not convinced, as the employee probably did not provide any evidence – particularly medical evidence – to support his claims. The disrespectful behaviour and inappropriate comments were sufficiently demonstrated and justified the dismissal.

The bottom line is that the employee’s flatulence was indeed a “weapon of mass destruction”, not to “invite” colleagues to leave the office but to invite him to leave the company after 14 years of service…

Between good manners and living without, you now know which choice to make…

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