The Supreme Court rules on the three-phase process for identifying the correct grade level of classification of employees

Court of Cassation, Employment Section, Order No. 18692 of 9 September 2020

With this judgement, the Supreme Court has ruled on the process that leads to identifying the correct job level of each employee in a company.
The case originates from an employee who sued the employer for the recognition of a contractual level higher than the one actually assigned and the related differences in salary and social security contributions.
In the first instance, the Court upheld the employee’s claim, but the ruling was overturned on appeal.
The Court of Cassation ruled, among other things, on the process of identifying the correct level of classification.

According to the Supreme Court “the logical-legal procedure to determine the classification of an employee evolves in three stages”.
Specifically, the three phases consist of “the factual assessment of the work actually carried out, the identification of qualifications and levels provided by the applicable national collective agreement and the comparison of these two results”.
The Judges go on to point out that, in order to comply with this procedure in arriving at a decision “the above-mentioned factors must be taken into account by the court when deciding on the job level, otherwise, it can be considered a defect as referred to in art. 360 n. 3 c.p.c., due to the incorrect application of art. 2103 c.c.”.
Finally, according to the Judges of the Supreme Court, in interpreting the clauses of the collective agreement relating to the classification of personnel in levels or categories “the connotative and discriminatory capacity in practice of the professional profiles should be considered. In particular, “where the same are generic and likely to take on variations in interpretation, then it is necessary to integrate the indications with the declaratory general nature of the category, which take on a decisive nature concerning the actual scope of the specific profiles”.
In the case in question, the Court of Cassation has deemed as correct, the procedure implemented by the Court of Appeal to “identify the duties and absorb those actually ascertained in those abstractly described, without intervening in the interpretation of the collective provisions, in any of the reported violations. The court had correctly verified the characteristic features of the tasks and then checked in detail for the existence of the distinctive elements of the individual profiles. According to a procedure that is not characterized by rigidity, it went from the general to the specific, reconstructing according to a logic that does not expose the distinctive features of each qualification to criticism”.
By virtue of the above, the Court of Cassation upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal, thus rejecting the employee’s appeal.