An employer is obliged to pay damages for injury to health caused by conduct of “aggressive distrust”

Court of Cassation, Employment Section 2 March 2021 no. 5639

In the case in question, a secondary school teacher sued his school and the Ministry of Education: the Court found that a type of bullying did in fact exist.
The Court of Appeal partially overturned the ruling of the court of first instance, stating that bullying could not be identified in the case in question, given the scarcity of the incidents detected and the short period of time overwhich they occurred.
According to the court, the plaintiff had been subjected to “aggressive distrust” of his work, which could be traced back to a different phenomenon of straining and which had caused damage to his health.
In particular, the court-appointed expert had ascertained that the conduct of the school manager towards the appellant, including continued pressure and de-voiding him of his tasks, had caused a psychopathological illness – adjustment disorder with depressed mood anxiety – which had brought about biological injury lasting 10 months.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal was challenged by the teacher as being based on a the expert’s report that should be considered void, as it had not answered the question about the existence or otherwise of bullying.
However, according to the judges of the Supreme Court, the expert witness’s failure to respond to the question regarding the existence or otherwise of bullying was irrelevant, as “this is a decision left to the judge, at the outcome of the overall assessment of the evidence and any expert evidence”.
The teacher denounced as erroneous the reconstruction and assessment of the facts, for having disallowed the finding of bullying as ascertained by the lower court. This was considered inadmissible by the Court for lack of interest. 
In particular, the judges noted that the teacher did not attach any useful outcome to the unlawful conduct being classified differently, “given that the reduction in the amount of compensation resulted not from the different reclassification of the unlawful act but from the different assessment of the damage, as temporary biological damage”.
Lastly, the teacher claimed that the Appeal Court had erred in confusing the monetary damage claimed – consisting of damage to his professional skills, which would have allowed him to earn a higher income in the future – with one of the components of non-patrimonial damage.
This argument was also thrown out. According to the judges “the reasons for the censure do not affect the ratio decidendi of the judgment under appeal, according to which, since there was no permanent disability, a reduction in earning capacity was not conceivable. The appellant did not address this ratio but introduced arguments that do not concern the financial damage deriving from the handicap but, rather, the damage to professionalism due to demotion”.