Judgment No. 4265
1. The EPO shall pay the complainant moral damages in the amount of 10,000 euros.
2. The EPO shall pay the complainant 1,000 euros in costs.
3. All other claims are dismissed.
The complainant challenges the decision to dismiss her allegations of harassment.
complaint allowed; harassment
This complaint [...] is the fifth of six complaints filed by the complainant that are presently before the Tribunal. Neither the complainant nor the EPO sought the joinder of this complaint with the other five. While each of the six complaints broadly relates to the same continuum of events with one of the central characters being VP1, mainly each concerns discrete events and each raises different legal issues. This complaint will not be joined with any of the others, consistent with the Tribunal’s case law (see, for example, Judgment 4114, consideration 2) with, additionally, the benefit of creating greater focus on the relevant facts and applicable law attending this complaint and each of the other complaints.
Jugement(s) TAOIT: 4114
A key element of harassment is the perception the person the object of the conduct “may reasonably and objectively have of acts or remarks liable to demean or humiliate him/her” (see Judgment 3318, consideration 7).
Several other matters emerge from the case law. Judgment 3318 [...] says, citing earlier authority, that there is no need to prove the perpetrator of the acts complained of intended to engage in harassment, an allegation of harassment has to be borne out by specific facts and the burden of proof is on the person who pleads it. That judgment also says, citing earlier authority, that an unlawful decision or inappropriate behaviour is not enough to prove that harassment has occurred. In addition, behaviour will not be characterised as harassment or mobbing if there is a reasonable explanation for the conduct in question, though an explanation which is prima facie reasonable may be rejected if there is evidence of ill will or prejudice or if the behaviour in question is disproportionate to the matter which is said to have prompted the course taken (see Judgment 2524, consideration 25).
Finally, individual events may, over time, evidence harassment even if each of the particular individual events may be capable of being viewed more benignly (see, for example, Judgment 3485, consideration 6).
Jugement(s) TAOIT: 2524, 3318, 3485
In her brief, the complainant says that upon returning from sick leave and at a meeting [...], she asked [VP1] “to inform [her] about the reasons and the result of his ‘inquiry’. His answer was that, since [she] had not been negatively affected, there was no need to inform [her].” [...] The complainant’s request was entirely reasonable. At best, VP1 was telling the complainant in an entirely summary if not dismissive way he had discovered no, or no significant, dissatisfaction with her leadership. He was otherwise refusing to discuss the matter further. In the circumstances, this was an entirely unjustified curt response about a matter of considerable importance to the complainant. The response did not respect the dignity of the complainant.
Viewing all the events discussed in the preceding considerations collectively, it cannot be said that the complainant has established a course of conduct that can be characterised as sustained or ongoing harassment. However she is entitled to moral damages for the conduct referred to in the preceding consideration. They are assessed in the sum of 10,000 euros.
respect for dignity