From 1 January 2020 the Equality and Anti-discrimination Act has been amended, imposing further duties on employers regarding equality and discrimination. Companies in the public sector and companies with more than 50 employees in the private sector must now carry out a mapping of pay with regard to gender and the uptake of part-time work every two years.
A recent district court ruling demonstrates that an employer can be liable for a customer's sexual harassment towards an employee. The ruling shows that, as a minimum, employers should perform a risk analysis of and have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, have guidelines on sexual harassment matters and immediately address sexual harassment situations if they occur.
Norway's labour legislation has undergone a number of amendments in recent months. For example, Parliament recently adopted a proposal to further strengthen the position of whistleblowers and amendments enhancing the rights of seafarers are set to enter into force in August 2019. In addition, in order to lower the threshold for processing sexual harassment disputes, the Anti-discrimination Tribunal has been authorised to enforce the prohibition on sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case concerning the validity of an amendment termination. In its decision, the court commented on the difference between the threshold for amendment terminations and that for ordinary complete terminations of employment. Although the matter at hand was regulated by the Ship Employee Act, the Supreme Court's judgment is relevant for amendment terminations under the Working Environment Act.
Parliament is processing a proposal for amendments to employment legislation concerning whistleblowers to further strengthen their position. The amendments are expected to be effective from 1 July 2019 or 1 January 2020. The main proposed amendments include an extension of the scope of persons subject to the whistleblowing provisions and clarification of the terms 'censurable conditions' and 'retaliation'.
In a recent case, a number of Norwegian Airlines pilots and cabin crew claimed that three of the companies in the Norwegian Group constituted their employer. However, the Supreme Court concluded that only one of the companies constituted their employer. This ruling clarifies the factors which are relevant in assessing whether the engagement of personnel is considered an acquisition of services or a hiring of personnel.
The Anti-discrimination Tribunal recently concluded that a municipality's refusal to extend a temporary employee's contract after he refused to meet their requirement to shake hands with women did not constitute discrimination. However, the tribunal concluded that the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration had discriminated against the employee when it cancelled his social aid following his refusal to comply with the municipality's requirement.
A non-statutory Norwegian rule provides employees with the right to choose to stay with their former employer following a transfer of undertakings provided that certain conditions are met. In this regard, the Supreme Court recently ruled that employees who are subject to a transfer of undertakings can choose to stay with their former employer if it is likely that they will lose their early retirement pension under the new employer.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case in which an employee had challenged the lawfulness of a warning issued by their employer. Prior to this case, Norwegian lawyers had generally been of the view that warnings were part of an employer's right of management and that the courts would not try cases challenging such warnings as they have no actual consequence.
Zero-hour contracts are particularly controversial in Norway, which is generally known for its high level of employee protection. For example, in early 2017 a district court held that a formal arrangement under which a staffing agency's full-time employees had not received salary payments between assignments was illegal. Further, the government recently issued a discussion document outlining its proposal to amend the Working Environment Act, which is intended to target zero-hour contracts.
The Labour Court rules on matters concerning the establishment, termination and interpretation of collective agreements, as well as on the individual consequences of a breach of a contractual obligation agreed in such agreements. A recent Supreme Court case questioned the Labour Court's jurisdiction to declare an employee's termination invalid, as the collective agreement did not explicitly mention the consequences of a breach of contractual obligations.
Over the past 10 to 15 years, Norway has focused on strengthening protections against discrimination. In 2013 it adopted three new or revised acts on discrimination and equality relating to disability, ethnic background, religion and spirituality and sex and sexual orientation. Public employers, private employers with more than 50 employees and work organisations must work actively and systematically to ensure that they achieve the purpose of the acts.
The High Court recently confirmed the general criteria that must be considered when evaluating the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor. This distinction is subject to a concrete overall evaluation of the facts in the individual case, including whether the contract imposes a personal work commitment, where the work is conducted and who bears responsibility for the result.
The High Court recently ruled in a case regarding a workforce reduction following the closure of a department store, in which the employer had limited the selection of employees to be made redundant to those at the affected store. The court confirmed the general rule that an employer must consider all employees when reducing its workforce, but held that this rule may be deviated from if there are justifiable grounds to do so.
New rules on restrictive covenants in the labour market entered into force on January 1 2016. The rules are included in the Working Environment Act and include restrictions on clauses governing non-compete and non-solicitation of customers and employees. Employers may still protect their business secrets and know-how through non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, subject to certain restrictive conditions.
The Bogarting Court of Appeal recently ruled in a case regarding choice of law in an international employment dispute. The case, which is still pending, demonstrates the issues that can arise in international employment disputes, including jurisdiction, choice of law and recognition and enforcement. It is important that parties are aware of these issues when entering into international employment contracts.
The government has introduced a bill setting out new rules on restrictive covenants in the labour market. The proposal includes both non-compete clauses and non-solicitation clauses, and would make major amendments to the existing legislation. If implemented, the new rules will have significant implications for both employers and employees.
Traditionally, Norwegian employees have enjoyed extensive rights and protection and Norway has had some of the strictest regulations worldwide regarding the hiring of temporary employees. The rule has been that, subject to specified limitations, all employees are employed permanently. However, new legislation will give employers a general power to hire employees on temporary contracts of up to 12 months.
The Supreme Court recently assessed the question of the applicable standard of proof in a case regarding summary dismissal based on an alleged criminal offence. The court considered the application of the standard of proof in criminal proceedings and whether a lower standard of proof than 'beyond reasonable doubt' would constitute breach of the European Convention of Human Rights and the Norwegian Constitution.
The Supreme Court recently deemed that a municipality's termination of its agreement with a general practitioner (GP) after she refused to insert an intrauterine device for a patient for reasons of conscience relating to her religion was invalid. The GP claimed that her termination was invalid because, among other things, it contravened Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of thought, conscience and religion).