Italy: Employment Law Newsletter | April 2023

New laws and regulations

EU Whistleblowing Directive finally implemented in Italy

The law implementing the EU Whistleblowing Directive has been approved by the Italian Parliament. The new rules will apply to all companies employing on average more than 50 employees, as well as to employers operating in some particularly "sensitive" sectors, regardless of their headcount. The main provisions of the new law provide as follows: 

  • any form of retaliatory measure against whistleblowers is forbidden, including dismissals, suspensions, disciplinary measures, etc.;
  • the Italian Anti-Corruption Authority — in collaboration with the National Labour Inspectorate — has the authority to start inspections against employers accused of retaliatory behaviours, upon the request of the whistleblowers;
  • judicial authorities can adopt all measures (including interim ones) to protect the rights of the whistleblowers and award them with damages;
  • settlement agreements that include waivers to rights arising from the new law must be validated before a "protected venue" (e.g., before trade union representatives, a labour judge or a conciliatory panel) in order to be enforceable.

However, some interpretative doubts still need to be clarified regarding specific issues that may also have an impact on HR aspects, such as means to activate and effectively manage reporting channels, in particular on the right to share information among companies belonging to multinational groups.

Fuel vouchers: taxation and social security contributions

A new law approved by the Italian Parliament specifies that if an employer grants fuel vouchers to its employees with a value of up to EUR 200, such vouchers will not be taxable for income taxation purposes. However, employers will have to take into account the value of such vouchers, regardless of their amount, when calculating social security charges. 

Case law developments

Inappropriate comments on colleagues' sexuality: dismissal for just cause

The Italian Supreme Court recently ruled that the dismissal for just cause of an employee who expressed inappropriate opinions verbally, regarding the sexual orientation of a colleague, is a proper disciplinary sanction, proportionate to the seriousness of the case. According to the Court, comments like these breach constitutional rights that protect anyone's freedom.  

Access to email accounts and message confidentiality: sanctions for employers 

The Italian Data Protection Authority issued an injunction order sanctioning a company for violating the confidentiality of employee correspondence by accessing their email accounts. According to the Authority, the processing of personal data necessary to defend one's right in court does not cancel the employees' right to protection of personal data, even more so when written correspondence is concerned, the secrecy of which is also constitutionally protected both during employment and after termination. For example, in the case at hand, the employer had not deactivated a former employee's e-mail account, keeping all the e-mails between her and some clients in order to use those as evidence in case of possible judicial litigations. 

Dismissal of a violent employee: irrelevance of the psychological status of the employee 

The Italian Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of an employee who, in anger, insulted his boss and threatened him. The Court declared that the dismissal was justified regardless of the employee's emotional state.

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