In a historic judgment, a German court today ruled that groping a woman’s breasts while at work does not constitute a ‘sackable’ offense. Particularly if done only once. A 37 year old man who had been fired in 2012 after a female employee working at the same garage as him complained of him trying to take undue liberties with her, he was sacked. Saying that he was upset at being thrown the door, the employee approached the court.
Judges of the Federal Labor Court sitting in Erfurt said that the car mechanic who groped the 26-year-old cleaner at his workplace while saying ‘these look like fun’ should not have been dismissed.
The court observed probably meant to suggest that a single instance of groping was tolerable (perhaps even ‘acceptable’) but went on to add that serial fondling could lead to an errant employee being show the door.
The mechanic says he was overcome by ‘a moment of madness’. He went on to elaborate that he had apologized to his co-worker after having made those lewd comments and even offered her some monetary compensation for the same. But since she went on to report the incident to the employer, he was thrown out in the most, according to him, unbecoming manner.
The incident took place in 2012 over the incident and appealed the decision through various courts before it ended up at the Erfurt courthouse this week.
The court was given a detailed account of the comments he had made about his co-worker and then proceeded to grab her when he came across her in the bathroom at the garage where he worked near Erfurt.
She immediately pushed him away and complained to his boss. In a conversation with his employer, he admitted the incident and stated that he had ‘forgotten for a second’ who he was.
While releasing their statement the court mentioned that they had taken into account the fact that the man was apologetic about his conduct and that he had gone ahead and expressed the same to the co-worker.
‘Sexual harassment in the workplace must not lead to the immediate termination of the offender,’ said the court statement.
‘If unethical approaches actually entail a dismissal, it should depend always on the circumstances of the case.’
The Labor Court said a ‘cease and desist’ letter should have sufficed, and that firing the man, aged 37, who had worked at the firm for 16 years, was a step too far.
The same court had upheld the dismissal of another employee accused of patting his female staff members’ back repeatedly last year.