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Italy: When the dismissal served by registered letter starts producing effects?

The employee was dismissed for disciplinary reasons by registered letter which was never picked up and thus remained in deposit at the post office.

According to Italian labour law, the dismissal (to be qualified under the category of unilateral receptive act) is effective from the date the employee is acknowledged of the termination.

In the first two instances of judgment, the plaintiff’s request of declaration of the unlawfulness of the termination had been rejected, since the time limit for the employee’s challenge of the dismissal expired.

The Italian Supreme Court, with decision no. 15397 of 31 May 2023, confirmed the previous judgments and provided for some interesting clarifications on the matter regarding the legal presumption of knowledge of termination and hence the effectiveness of the dismissal.

The Court explained that in application of the general principles set forth by Sections 1334 and 1335 of the Italian Civil Code, the dismissal “takes effect from the moment it comes to the knowledge of the person to whom it is addressed“.

By virtue of such provisions, the dismissal notice sent by registered letter is considered legally known at the time it reaches the employee’s address: this is a legal presumption of knowledge that operates by the sole objective fact of the arrival of the letter to the recipient’s (i.e. the employee) address and may be overcome only by an adequate proof of the impossibility of knowledge through no fault of the addressee.

In the case examined, the Court of Cassation deemed that the employee was not able to prove that it was impossible for her to have been informed of the notice without fault, since the letter of dismissal was received at the address she had provided to the employer (moreover, the employee was also required under a specific collective contractual obligation to “promptly” communicate any change of residence or domicile to the employer) and that the mere statement that she had never found the notice of dismissal in her mailbox could not be regarded as sufficient to overcome the said presumption.

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