The former chairman of the Transport Workers' Union (AKT), Timo Räty, has been handed a fine of over 2,000 euros for bullying Hilkka Ahde, AKT's director of communications, after the District Court of Helsinki convicted Räty of two work safety offences and an assault on Monday.
In addition, Räty was convicted for bullying his former secretary.
The court determined that the bullying had begun in 2006, with Räty first yelling at Ahde, giving her vague assignments and ultimately not speaking to her at all.
In its ruling, the court also underlines that as such the peculiar management style of an employer is not punishable by law. The evidence presented against Räty, however, indicates that his attitude toward Ahde and his secretary is incomparable to the problems and conflicts typically encountered at workplaces.
“The actions of Räty were repeated, disregarded the warnings of third parties, aggravated when Ahde and [the secretary] sought to defend their legal rights and ultimately culminated – regardless of the intervention of authorities – in the dismissal of Ahde,” the court elaborates.
Ahde has since been reinstated, whereas Räty was sacked from the union in June 2012.
Employers, the court emphasises, have under no circumstances the right to bully their employees. Räty had explained his behaviour by, for example, insisting that Ahde was incompetent.
The court found Räty guilty of assault due to the adverse effect of the long-term bullying on Ahde's mental health. According to the court, the mental abuse endured by Ahde meets the elements of an assault. Räty, for example, humiliated Ahde in public, isolated her and handed her inappropriate assignments. In addition, he belittled Ahde by not greeting her.
“Räty should have also noticed the change in Ahde's health, which was evident in the ways described by witnesses,” the court adds.
Susanna Reinboth – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT
Photo: Kai Sinervo / HS