Widowed manager who was dismissed on sick leave awarded €500,000

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A manager who was unfairly dismissed by petrol station operator Varo Energy has been awarded €500,000 in compensation after he took the company to court.

The 61-year-old, who loves in Belgium, was hired in 2015 to oversee the Rotterdam-based company’s compliance with legal standards on working conditions, quality and the environment.

After his wife died in 2017 he took several periods of sick leave, including absences to undergo surgery.

In 2022 Varo Energy, which runs around 170 Argos filling stations in the Benelux countries, relieved the man of his duties, appointed a replacement and tried to move him to a different position.

When those efforts failed the company dismissed him on the basis of a broken relationship and dysfunctional behaviour, and paid him the standard rate of compensation of €30,000.

Relationship breakdown

But the district court in Rotterdam said Varo Energy had committed a serious breach of the rules by dismissing the man unilaterally during his absence, while giving him no opportunity to improve his performance.

It awarded him fair compensation of €470,000 on the basis that he would have continued in his previous role until retirement had the relationship with his employer not broken down.

The man’s performance at work was assessed as “exceeded expectations” until 2019, after which he was judged to have “achieved expectations”.

The court said the man had been through “a hard time after the death of his wife and his own periods of illness, which were combined with spells in hospital and operations.”

The fact that Varo Energy removed him from his post without discussing his perceived dysfunction or ways to raise his performance level “was not an indication of good employer practice,” the court said in its judgment.

Deterrent effect

It said the level of compensation was intended in part to have a “deterrent effect” on the company, so that it did not treat other employees in the same way.

Varo Energy rejected the man’s attempts to settle the dispute through the Belgian courts because it would take too long, while he refused to co-operate with their efforts to hear the case in the Netherlands.

The company was also ordered to pay the man a bonus of €27,385 bonus for 2022 which it had withheld after downgrading his performance level, as well as a transition payment of €2,200.



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