The petitioner claims he was fired in 2015 because he did not adhere to the company's 'fun' values.
While some people enjoy spending time with their coworkers outside of the 9 to 5, others would rather use their evenings to relax, spend time with friends and family or simply switch off. As businesses strive to encourage workers to spend more time in the workplace after the pandemic, the pressure to indulge in various social gatherings has returned. However, that pressure has been called into question this week after a French man won the right to not be "fun" at work.
The highest court of France has ruled that employers cannot terminate employees for not being "fun" enough. The decision was made in response to Cubik Partners, a consulting firm in Paris, terminating an employee—referred to in court documents as Mr. T—in 2015 for declining to partake in seminars and weekend social events that his lawyers argued, included "excessive alcoholism" and "promiscuity."
The court records obtained by Business Insider state that Mr. T joined the company in February 2011 and was promoted in 2014 before getting sacked a year later in March 2015 for "professional incompetence," specifically for failing to uphold the "fun" ideals of the organization. Additionally, Mr. T was said to be a tough coworker and a bad listener by Cubik Partners.
The company's "fun" values, according to the Court of Cassation, included regular required social gatherings that led to "excessive alcoholism encouraged by colleagues who made very large quantities of alcohol available," as well as "practices pushed by colleagues involving promiscuity, bullying and incitement to various excesses." The court, which is the highest in the French judicial system, also described other "humiliating and intrusive" behaviors encouraged by Cubik Partners, such as the requirement to share a bed with a coworker.
French man wins right to not be ‘fun’ at work https://t.co/vCJuhStzDI— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) November 27, 2022
In a decision handed down on November 9, the court determined that Mr. T. had been unfairly terminated by Cubik Partners because of his failure to participate in the company's "fun" principles and "critical behavior."
The court determined that by declining to take part in the company's social events, Mr. T was expressing his "freedom of expression" and that this "fundamental freedom" could not be used as justification for firing him. The Paris Court of Appeal had earlier denied Mr. T's request for 461,406 euros in damages (about $479,000), but the Court of Cassation's recent decision partially overturned this decision. The court has now mandated that Cubik Partners pay Mr. T 3000 euros, but it will later consider his request for additional damages.
This lawsuit should be a reminder that when your employees have personal boundaries….don’t push them even if it is “after work” https://t.co/OzxP8cwcHg— Stephanie Alston (@Steph_R_Alston) November 26, 2022
It is not the first time that a company's drinking habits have been scrutinized in legal procedures. The Washington Post reports that even after the #MeToo movement brought attention to workplace misconduct globally, a number of recent events have shown how deeply ingrained alcohol is in the white-collar world. For company functions, several businesses have instituted "booze chaperones" in an effort to prevent such problems.
Massive W for us introverts, or better yet, people who just want to go home at 5— mickeyd26 (@michellewobama) November 26, 2022
An auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers in England filed a case against the business this year in London's High Court for serious injuries he suffered at a work function that "made a competitive virtue" of "excessive" drinking. After taking part in the company event, Michael Brockie collapsed in the street, fell into a coma and later underwent surgery to have a portion of his skull removed.
I’ve noticed companies are trying to incentivize workers into surrounding their life around work or work related activites— That girl. (@_jasminwats) November 26, 2022
In March, insurance marketplace Lloyd's of London fined member firm Atrium Underwriters a record-breaking 1 million pound ($1.2 million) for "serious failures," including a "boys' night out" where staff members—including two senior executives—"took part in inappropriate initiation games and heavy drinking, and made sexual comments about female colleagues."