Ruling of the Guimarães Court of Appeal, of 18 February 2016 – Moral harassment – Termination of contract – Interest for late payment

In the ruling in question, the Guimarães Court of Appeal ordered a company to pay over 172,000 Euros to an employee who decided to terminate his employment contract for just cause, alleging that the management had morally harassed him.

The Court considered that the moral harassment, also known as “workplace bullying” comprised altering the place where the employee performed his duties and banning him from moving around company premises, with the exception of going to the toilette. Furthermore, the employee was also forbidden from talking to other company employees, his company mobile phone was taken away from him “for no reason”, he was forbidden from entering through the door he had habitually used until then and his access to the Internet was blocked.

This all occurred after he had refused to accept his salary being reduced to one third and the termination of his contract with a compensation payment considerably below his entitlement based on his 14 years' of service.

The employer alleged that the employee had no specific grounds for terminating his contract with just cause and in addition, alleged that the termination of the contract stemmed only from the fact that the employee sought to define his own tasks and place of employment.

The Guimarães Court of Appeal upheld the employee's arguments, having considered that there is a subjective just cause in the termination of a contract by the employee when the latter is harassed by his employer, and ordered the company to pay him the said amount by way of compensation for length of service and moral damages.

Ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice, of 18 February 2016 – Work accident – Commuting Accident

In the ruling in question, the Supreme Court of Justice was called on to consider whether an accident which occurred when an employee had already stepped outside the door of her house on her way to work, but was still within the bounds of her property could be considered a commuting accident.

In the opinion of the Supreme Court of Justice, for an accident to be considered as a commuting accident, it suffices for the misfortune to occur between the place of habitual residence and the premises which comprise the victim's workplace, specifically those accidents which occur on the habitual route taken by the employee and during the period of time which the latter usually spends between his place of habitual or temporary residence and the premises which comprise his workplace.

Hence, since the accident occurred when the employee had left her house to travel to her workplace, in the garage belonging to her property where her vehicle was parked, it occurred after she had stepped outside her front door and when, as was her custom, she was making her way to her workplace and must thus be deemed a commuting accident.

Ruling of the Guimarães Court of Appeal, of 3 March 2016 – Lawful dismissal – Remote surveillance methods

In the ruling in question the Guimarães Court of Appeal considered that data obtained by an employer using a GPS device to compare the mileage travelled by an employee and the information submitted by the latter could be admitted as evidence.

Despite the fact that the employer may not use remote surveillance devices in the workplace, by resorting to technological equipment for the purposes of checking an employee's job performance, in the case under review, the GPS device was not installed in the medical sales representative’s vehicle for the purposes of controlling his job performance, but merely for tallying the mileage travelled.

In view of the sizeable discrepancy between the mileage actually travelled and that declared by the employee and moreover, the fact that the latter had pulled the card inserted in the GPS device out of its correct position, in an attempt to prevent data from being transmitted, which was the very reason why it was installed, his behaviour towards his employer became quite dishonest and infringed his duty to maintain and correctly use work-related property.

Under such circumstances, his wrongful behaviour reached such an extent as to undermine the continuation of the employment relationship in question. Thus, the employer could not be reasonably expected to maintain the contractual relationship, thereby rendering the penalty imposed of lawful dismissal justified and proportionate.