This is apparent from a decision made public yesterday by the subdistrict court in Maastricht.
The woman had worked for ten years as a secretary and receptionist for Bormans JaVa, a small tax consultancy with offices in Gulpen and Vaals. As a result of heart problems, the employee belongs to a Covid-19 risk group.
Ban on working from home
After the government introduced strict corona measures in March last year, the employer banned its staff from working from home.
“I assume that we all put our shoulders together and that EVERYONE does their own work and sit in their own place,” he commanded in an email on March 15. “As already indicated in January, people do not work from home.” Employees who still wanted to stay at home had to take vacation days.
stay at home
The receptionist called in sick that same day with sore throat. From June, her employer stopped paying her a salary.
In June, the company doctor determined that, given her medical background, the woman should work at home, but that her employer did not facilitate this. If working from home was not possible, the company had to provide a safe workplace.
For example, the walking route along the counter should be shielded with Plexiglas. A visit by the health and safety doctor at the office showed that this was not the case. A later recommendation from the company doctor for mediation to improve the seriously disrupted employment relationship, ignored the employer.
An employment expert from the UWV established in September that the company was not making sufficient reintegration efforts.
No work refusal
Because the employer continued to refuse to pay salary, the woman went to court in the fall. In October, the preliminary relief judge ruled that she was entitled to her overdue wages.
The judge partly blamed the employee for the lack of communication, and called it ‘somewhat understandable’ that the director was frustrated about this. But according to the judge there was no question of refusal to work. Under the circumstances, it was understandable that the secretary did not want to be in the workplace.
Because the employer refused to pay the overdue wages despite the ruling of the preliminary relief judge, the conflict escalated. The secretary sent a bailiff to the company, who, however, managed to collect only a small part of the wage bill claimed.
Subsequently, the woman filed for bankruptcy of the company. That failed, because no other creditors participated.
Minced meat made from employer
Finally, the receptionist went to court again to have her employment contract terminated. In addition, she demanded substantial departure and compensation.
The ruling made public yesterday shows that the subdistrict court in Maastricht has made mincemeat of the employer. According to the judge, there is ‘evidently serious culpability’ by the tax consultancy.
For example, the employer should not have put pressure on the secretary to come to work without arranging a safe workplace. Nor should the advice of the company doctor have been ignored.
Finally, the subdistrict court found it culpable that the employer stopped paying wages without good reason and flouted the judgment about the payment of the arrears.
According to the subdistrict court, the employer should have immediately provided a safe workplace in March 2020. “That was simple and relatively cheap. By not taking care of this, the employer is to blame for the employee no longer coming to her workplace.”
That is now costing the tax consultancy firm. The subdistrict court ruled that the secretary is entitled to a transition payment of more than 10,000 euros, compensation of 46,000 euros and more than 10,000 euros in holiday allowance, thirteenth month and holidays.
The employee’s lawyer Vian Vonken says he is satisfied with the ruling. “But our experiences with this employer are now such that we have to wait and see whether payment is actually made.”
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Vonken points to the previous failed attempts to get payments. “My client appears to have been placed in a personnel company, from which there is no recourse. Because Mrs. has been without income for a year, we ultimately had to submit a request for termination ourselves, so that she can be eligible for unemployment benefits. It is disastrous for an employer to do this.”
According to the lawyer, the employee’s claim, including the overdue salary from the ruling in October and the fine increase, has now risen to more than 100,000 euros.
Owner Jose Bormans of the tax consultancy does not want to explain the matter. “I don’t know why. That doesn’t seem sensible to me. If you mention our name, you will have problems with it. You are basing a story on incorrect information.”