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27th Nov 2022

Man fired for not being ‘fun’ at work wins legal battle – nobody has to be fun now

Dave Hanratty

The man refused to engage in ‘excessive alcoholism’ and ‘promiscuity’. Then he lost his job

There can be a strange pressure placed upon people to be ‘fun at work’. Is it a modern-day phenomenon or has it been around since ancient times? Who can tell. In any event, we’ve all been there, right?

You know what we mean – that horrible practice of ‘forced fun’ where people try desperately to foster some kind of laugh riot ‘we’re all mates here’ workplace culture. It feels terribly forced and completely unnatural.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s healthy to break up the day by having a laugh, but there are limits to one’s patience.

And on some occasions, things can get ugly. Take the case of Mr T – no, not that one – in France. As highlighted by Business Insider, Mr T was fired from his job at a consultancy firm in Paris in 2015 because he refused to get involved in after-work drinks and team-building exercises.

It was also communicated that Mr T (seriously, what a pseudonym to go with) was let go due to “professional incompetence” – which appeared largely to boil down to the whole ‘not wanting to have fun’ thing – and because of apparently being difficult to work with and a poor listener.

Seven years on, a French court has ruled that companies may not fire their employees for failing to adhere to such “fun” circumstances.

As outlined in the Court of Cassation documents, the company’s “fun” elements were described as regular mandatory-attendance social events that resulted in “excessive alcoholism encouraged by colleagues who made very large quantities of alcohol available” and “practices pushed by colleagues involving promiscuity, bullying and incitement to various excesses”.

In other words; your average Irish office Christmas party.

In the end, the court ruled that Mr T was merely exercising his “freedom of expression” to not engage with such activities and thus was wrongfully terminated from his contract. He will receive €3,000 for his troubles, with the potential for higher damages also on the horizon.

Now that’s fun.

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