Rcently the employment contract between Inholland University and one of its employees was terminated due to a seriously disturbed employment relationship. The employee, who had been working as a 'lecturer 2' at the Faculty of Technology, Design, and Informatics (TOI) since September 1, 2019, was involved in alleged serious complaints of inappropriate behavior. The prolonged conflicts and unsuccessful attempts at reconciliation ultimately led to a judicial termination of the employment contract.
The alleged complaints, coming from students and a female colleague who wished to remain anonymous, came to light in November 2021. Initially, Inholland took practical measures to avoid direct collaboration between the employee and the colleague. However, in February 2022, it became evident that these measures were not sufficient to alleviate the tensions.
Efforts by Inholland to resolve the conflict proved futile, primarily due to the employee's refusal to cooperate constructively. Instead of reflecting on their behavior, the employee responded defensively and did not allow room for dialogue. This resulted in an increasingly deteriorating employment relationship, despite an earlier mediation process that did not yield a resolution.
An investigation conducted by Bezemer & Schubad concluded that the complaints against a supervisor were unfounded but also noted that the employee 'presumably occasionally exhibits behavior that borders on inappropriate conduct'. However, the employee was dissatisfied with these findings and commissioned two counter-expertises critical of the original report. This further escalated the conflict, leading the employee to take sick leave and file a complaint with the National Complaints Committee for Education (LKC). Additionally, there is an ongoing legal case in the Amsterdam District Court regarding alleged violations of privacy rights under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The court ruled that the relationship between Inholland and the employee was irreparably damaged. While there was criticism of Inholland's approach at the outset, no serious impropriety on the part of the university was established. On the other hand, despite the employee's contribution to the disturbance, they were not considered to be seriously at fault. The employee did not act out of malice but rather out of a strong and unfounded belief in their own correctness.
The judicial termination of the employment contract resulted in the award of a gross severance payment of €15,555.90 to the employee.
This incident emphasizes the importance of constructive communication and collaboration in the workplace, especially concerning sensitive issues such as complaints of inappropriate behavior. It also illustrates the legal implications of a disturbed employment relationship and the potential consequences for employers and employees.
Link to the verdict: https://uitspraken.rechtspraak.nl/#!/details?id=ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2023:4548
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