Article 7 - Respect for private and family life
Key facts of the case:
On 8 April 2015, company Y dismissed employee Mr X, who had been working as a pilot at company Y, since 2011. Between 2013 and 2015, the employee was frequently on sick leave. The company hired a detective to investigate the employee's health status. They discovered that the employee carrying out activities deemed incompatible with incapacity for work, such as visits to shopping malls, restaurants, and sports centres. On 28 October 2015, the plaintiff employee X summoned the company Y and the State of Luxembourg, given its role as manager of the Employment Fund (Fonds pour l'Emploi) before the Labour Court of Luxembourg City requesting (1) the dismissal to be considered null, (2) the employer to reinstate him at work and, (3) to be paid salaries since dismissal retroactively. Alternatively, the employee requested the dismissal to be declared unfair and that the employer compensate him for damages suffered. The employee X's request is based on the following legal norms: (a) violation of equal treatment before the law (Article 10bis of the Constitution of Luxembourg), (b) violation by the employer of the fundamental right to respect for private life (Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights), and (c) violation of the principle of non-discrimination based on health status akin to disability (Luxembourg Labour Code article 251.1)
Key legal question raised by the Court:
The key legal question is whether or not a violation of the right to private life can render a dismissal null.
Outcome of the case:
The Court of Cassation, which has the mandate to review, at the request of the parties, the decisions emanating from the courts and the courts of appeal, only decides questions of law or the application of the law; it does not judge the facts. The Labour Court of Luxembourg City (12 May 2017 judgment no. 1897/2017 du rôle) and Court of Appeal (no. 86/19 of 13 June 2019 / judgement no. 45152 du rôle) judged the facts. The Court of Cassation judgement (N° 47 / 2021 (CAS-2020-00038 of 18 March 2021) upheld two courts' legality in applying the law. The Courts found the plaintiff's arguments of unequal treatment (Article 10bis of the Constitution of Luxembourg) and discrimination on the grounds of health status as unsubstantiated. The plaintiff's health condition was not like a disability (Luxembourg Labour Code article 251.1).
Regarding the admissibility of evidence collected, the Labour Court and Court of Appeal failed to see how the plaintiff can claim infringement of respect for private life. The detective collected the evidence in public locations. But most importantly, the courts ruled that the grounds invoked by the employee of violation of fundamental rights cannot result in the nullity of the dismissal, but could lead, if necessary, at most to the rejection of this evidence. The Court of Cassation ruled that there is no legal argument for reversing a dismissal (rendering it null) on the grounds of breach of respect to private life. The final result of the case was that the Court ruled in favour of the employer. The employee's dismissal was not considered null; he did not get reinstated on the job, retroactively paid, or compensated for damages suffered.
(…) alleges infringement of Article 6, paragraph 1, and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, Article 11 of the Constitution and Article 1 of the law of 11 August 1982 on the protection of private life, to which the Court of Appeal confirmed the decision of the Labour Court to declare the application for nullity of the dismissal of the appellant in cassation inadmissible because "No legal or regulatory text provides for the nullity of the dismissal in the event of a manifest violation by the employer of the fundamental right to respect for private life (…) the plaintiff's claims of breach of fundamental rights due to the shadowing by a detective during his sick leave, cannot result in the nullity of the dismissal but would be likely to lead, if necessary, to the rejection of the evidence (…).
(…) est tiré de la violation des articles 6, paragraphe 1, et 8 de la Convention de sauvegarde des droits de l’homme et des libertés fondamentales, 7 de la Charte des droits fondamentaux de l’Union européenne, 11 de la Constitution et 1 de la loi du 11 août 1982 concernant la protection de la vie privée, en ce que la Cour d’appel a confirmé la décision du tribunal de travail de déclarer la demande en nullité du licenciement du demandeur en cassation irrecevable aux motifs que «Aucun texte légal ou réglementaire ne prévoit la nullité du licenciement en cas de violation manifeste par l’employeur du droit fondamental au respect de la vie privée (…) invoqués par l’appelant les tirés de la violation des droits fondamentaux en raison de la filature par un détective pendant le congé de maladie du salarié, ne sauraient avoir comme conséquence la nullité du licenciement, mais seraient de nature à entraîner, le cas échéant, le rejet du motif reposant sur ce moyen de preuve » (…).