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Global employment briefing: Sweden, June 2017

  • Sweden
  • Employment law


Important new labour court rulings

Discrimination and religious belief

The case ( 2017 no 23) concerned a midwife who had applied for work at three different women’s clinics but was denied employment since she, among other things, refused to perform abortions. The woman considered herself to have been discriminated against due to her Christian beliefs and outlook on life and that her rights according to the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated.

The Labour Court interpreted the Swedish legislation in the light of the European Convention on Human Rights and came to the conclusion that the midwife had not been discriminated against since the decision not to employ her was based on that she could not perform certain work duties which were part of the roles she had applied for - and not her religious beliefs. The court also came to the conclusion that there had not been any indirect discrimination since the clinics had had the right to expect and demand that all midwifes had to be prepared to perform all work duties at the clinic.

This court ruling shows that an employer may have the right to deny an applicant work if the applicant does not want to perform certain work duties which are part of the role applied for.

Competing business: large financial penalty

In this case (AD 2017 no 22), an employer who engaged in technical consultancy and product development had two employees: CEO and project manager. Both founded a competing company while still employed with the company. In addition, they recruited 11 employees from the employer as well as the employer’s biggest customer to their newly established company.

The Labor Court concluded that the employees had, through their preparatory measure to start a competing business, violated the duty of loyalty which follows from their employment contract. The Labor Court also stated that the two employees (during employment) had in-depth discussions with the current customer regarding future missions which also constituted breach of the duty of loyalty and shows that the employees deliberately acted to cause the employer harm. The Labor Court ruled that the disloyal behavior had caused the employer a direct financial damage in the form of additional costs to an amount of SEK 300 000. The Labor Court also stated that the two employees must compensate the employer for the financial damage suffered as a consequence of the loss of the largest customer. Based on the injury calculation presented by the employer to the Labor Court and some other estimates of the size of the damage (e.g. to what extent the employer could have assumed it would retain its largest customer if the two employees had acted loyally during their employment), the Labor Court estimated the damage to SEK 3 500 000. The two employees were thus obliged to pay a total amount of SEK 3 800 000 (@ 388,600 Euros) to the employer.

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