Watching a football match at work: What are the risks?

An employee watching a football game during his work time it is inappropriate, in principle. However, in practice, there is "tolerance"except when it is safety at stake.

"The labor code does not foresee all the possible and imaginable faults of a worker"explains to AFP Christophe Noël, a lawyer specializing in labor law. "But the employee is supposed to work during his working time and not do private activities".

In France, for example, there is an article in their legislation that provides that "the duration of effective work is the time during which the worker is at the disposal of the employer and complies with his directives without being able to dedicate himself freely to personal occupations".

"The rule is that it is always constitutive of a foul: when watching a game, the employee does not respect his obligation of loyaltysince it does not do what is asked of it" by the employer, continues the lawyer.

Judges have already faced these types of cases. In some of them, it was considered that dismissal could be justified; in others, they ruled that the sanction should be proportionate to the offense and the damage generated to the company.

In disciplinary matters, there "a cardinal principle in labor law, of proportionality of the sanction in relation to the seriousness of the offense"emphasizes Noël. "There are degrees between guilt, oral or written reprimand, suspension and even dismissal. Throwing out an employee for watching a game is a bit strong"believes the lawyer.

"The cases examined by the courts range from an employee in a warehouse surprised by surveillance videos watching a game to an airline pilot doing the same on his mobile."says Noël.

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Among the cases of dismissal, Noël cites employees in charge of security, such as security guards or people in charge of video surveillance, who "suddenly they are no longer what they do".

Sometimes, "the safety of people may be at stake"other times it is about "a simple offense committed but without serious consequences"adds the lawyer. "We understand that the degree of seriousness is not the same"says the lawyer.

Of the approximately "12 million French in front of the television, it is assumed that a part works"indicates. "But there is tolerance and companies proceed intelligently. In general, when there is a football game during office hours, it is customary for the employee who is not assigned to a sensitive position to be able to see it. And it works pretty well."concludes Noël.

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