Court Rules Man Shouldn’t Be Fired for Not Being ‘Fun’ at Work

A French court ruled that a man was incorrectly terminated over not being ‘fun’ at work.

Not having to make small talk at one’s desk or go to “happy hours” when you just want to get home is a major reason more and more people are opting for remote work. Recent surveys found that only one in six Americans working in an office feels “highly connected” to the other people there. 

The number of remote workers feeling “not connected” to their colleagues is, counterintuitevely to what some CEOs will argue, lower for remote workers than it is for those coming in to a physical office.

And that’s even without the optional-but-not-really happy hours and other corporate socialization events that, when one is on the shyer side or does not feel connected to co-workers, can be a major source of stress. In November, a Paris court determined that a consulting firm was incorrect in firing a man who refused to participate in them.


You Can’t Get Fired For Skipping Drinks In France

The Parisian man, who has been referred to as “Mr. T.” through court documents, had been working for the Cubik Partners consulting firm between 2011 and 2015. 

Providing business consulting services for corporate clients, Cubik builds its work culture on one of social connection and “personality above competence.” The Cubik website page describing company values says that employees “need to know how to have fun while working.”

That aspect of company culture did not bode well with Mr. T who was promoted in 2014 but repeatedly refused to participate in various team-building activities and office happy hours.

After getting fired in 2015 for “professional incompetence,” Mr. T took his employer to court by claiming that he was penalized for not engaging in “excessive alcoholism” and “promiscuity.”

While the legal battle was protracted and involved at least one appeal, the Court of Cassation (the highest court in the French system) ultimately sided with Mr. T in ruling that refusing to participate in optional social activities was a “fundamental freedom” as well as a “freedom of expression.” 

Cubik Partners has been ordered to immediately pay Mr. T 3,000 euros ($3,161.) The court will reexamine the full extent of the damages at a later date. Mr. T’s past claim of 461,406 euros ($486,206) had been rejected by a French court of appeals.

Employers Trying To Build ‘Fun’ or ‘Family’ Culture Should Take Heed

Such a legal victory is unusual given how difficult such claims are to prove in court. Cubik Partners had previously claimed that Mr. T was also fired for hostile responses to feedback and criticism as well as a “brittle and demotivating tone” toward subordinates.

More often, taking Mr. T’s approach will not lead to outright firing but rather lost opportunities over not being seen as “dedicated” or a “fit.” That said, criticism of this type of “fun” or “family” corporate culture had already started to take off before the pandemic inadvertently solved the problem for jobs in certain industries well-suited to working from home.

“Some cult-like companies go so far as to position the workplace as a replacement for family and community, isolating their employees (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps deliberately) from those support networks,” Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2019. “They encourage people to center their lives around their jobs, which leaves little time for leisure, entertainment, or vacations.”

Related Posts

Union Capital Financial Group Ltd, registered in the British Virgin Islands, does not provide investment services inside the United States. The company only provides consulting, advisory and educational services.