What can a Dutch employer do with the help of an Employment lawyer in Amsterdam if certain colleagues at work can no longer get along because of a disturbed relationship? Can the employer, with the help of a lawyer, dismiss one of those colleagues through the Dutch cantonal courts?
Sometimes it happens that a conflict between colleagues has escalated to such an extent that they absolutely cannot or do not want to work together anymore. An unworkable situation. This is a so-called ‘horizontal disruption of the working relationship‘ between colleagues. But that does not mean that the relationship between the employer and the employee has also been disrupted, which is a condition for dissolving the contract through the courts.
No disturbed working relationship between employee(s) and employer
The policy rules of the UWV say a little more about this:
If two employees who are not in a hierarchical line to each other have a disturbed working relationship, there is no need in itself for a disturbed working relationship between the employee(s) and employer. However, the disrupted relationship between the two employees may have the effect that the working relationship between the employer and one or both of the employees concerned is also seriously and permanently disrupted. This effect may then lead to such a serious and lasting disruption of the working relationship between the employer on the one hand and one or both of the employees on the other hand that the employer nominates one or both of them for dismissal.
This means that, in principle, a disrupted working relationship (on the basis of which a request for dissolution can be made to the Dutch subdistrict court) only relates to the ‘vertical authority relationship’ between employer and employee and not to the ‘horizontal relationship’ between the employee and his colleagues. In principle, therefore, an employer can only submit a request for dissolution if the relationship between the person concerned and the employer has also been seriously disrupted.
Disturbance of the relationship between employees also a disturbed working relationship with the employer?
Only in special cases can a disturbance of the relations between employees also constitute a disturbed working relationship with the employer. This may be the case when the disturbed relationship between the employees also results in a disturbed working relationship of one or both of them with the employer.
Solving cooperation problems
Unfortunately, the relationship has been seriously disrupted, so what should the employer do to get rid of the unwilling employee? According to the court, the employer must first make an effort to resolve the cooperation problems.
After all, if there is a bad cooperative relationship between colleagues, the following applies according to the Policy Rules on the dismissal task of the UWV, Chapter 27 paragraph 4:
“The employer will therefore have to make it plausible that he has done everything possible to solve such a cooperation problem between employees. He will have to indicate what measures he has taken to that end (for example mediation) and why this has not had the desired result, namely normalization of the relationship between the employees. The solution to the conflict may also lie in transferring (one of) both to another department or offering an alternative position.”
In a similar case, the Arnhem Court of Appeal considered secretaries who no longer wanted to work with each other:
… that the atmosphere had become tense and sickening, that all attempts to improve the cooperation had failed and that now also the ultimate labor mediation of [F] had failed because one of the secretarial staff, [applicant] , no longer wanted to commit to a joint solution … applies that SWW could reasonably conclude after the report of [F] in September 2018 that the conflict within the secretariat had not been solved, that the desired cooperation appeared to be impossible and that its attempts, during three years, to reach a solution had failed … The conclusion is that the employment relationship between [applicant] and SWW had become so seriously and permanently disrupted that SWW could not reasonably be required to allow the employment contract to continue.
Mediation as a solution to a disrupted relationship
From this judgment it follows that also the court assumes that the employer first makes every effort to solve the problems on the work floor between the colleagues. In particular, the court refers, just as in the policy rules, to the possibility of mediation. In this case the mediator had concluded that mediation was not possible due to a lack of cooperation and therefore the mediation had failed.
As long as no serious mediation (attempt) has taken place, for example under the supervision of an independent, certified mediator, a request for dissolution at the court will fail at this stage. Only if the employer has done everything possible, a request for dissolution before the court has a chance of succeeding in resolving a disturbed relationship.
Contact a lawyer at Amsterdam Employment Law about dissolution of a disrupted employment relationship
Are you looking for commitment and direct, personal contact with an experienced employment law specialist in Amsterdam? Call our specialized lawyer employment law and dismissal law mr. Paul Snijders for questions and legal advice on employment law topics such as dismissal due to a disturbed relationship between colleagues.