Son of a bitch – you can't fire me

Daniel Woolls
Thursday 17 September 2009 00:00 BST

A court in Barcelona says insulting your boss with one particularly foul obscenity is not grounds for dismissal, insisting the slight is common in arguments in Spain and not that big a deal.

The abuse in question translates as "son of a bitch", and was used by a worker against his boss during a 2008 money dispute in the north-eastern city of Gerona. The worker, who also called his boss "crazy", was promptly fired.

The man lost a first court challenge, but won on appeal with the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia. The February ruling – reported this week by the Spanish human resources website Carta de Personal – said the worker should either be reinstated in his job or receive €6,483 (£5,770) in compensation. It is not known which option the employer picked.

"Without a doubt, both expressions are insulting," Judge Sara Maria Pose Vidal said in the ruling. But she noted that when the man called his boss crazy, he had been on his way out of the office and the boss did not hear it. She also wrote that the "son of a bitch" remark should be viewed in linguistic context.

"The social degradation of language has caused the expressions used by the plaintiff to become commonly used in certain settings, especially in arguments," Judge Pose Vidal wrote. She described his dismissal as a disproportionate punishment.

The court-provided copy of the seven-page verdict had the names of the employee and company blotted out – a common practice in Spanish court dealings with the media.

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