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'Bully' bosses convicted for co-worker's suicide

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10:35 CET+01:00
Two supervisors at a municipality in northern Sweden have been found guilty of driving a co-worker to suicide by bullying him at work in a landmark case on safety in the workplace.

The two bosses, ages 55 and 57, were convicted on Wednesday by the Östersund District Court of violating workplace safety laws by causing another's death.

Both were handed suspended sentences, with one manager being fined 50,000 kronor ($7,700) and the other 23,000 kronor ($3,500.)

The case stems from the death of Lars Persson, who committed suicide in 2010 at the age of 53, bringing an abrupt and unexpected end to his nearly three-decade career as a social worker employed by Krokom municipality.

His wife told the Aftonbladet newspaper last year that workplace bullying gave her deceased husband stomach cramps, kept him awake at night, and ultimately led him to take his own life.

She reported five of her husband's bosses to the police after Persson's death, which kicked off a two-year investigation that resulted in criminal charges.

The bullying occurred over an extended period of time, and began in 2009 when Persson found himself working under new management. Despite nearly 30 years in the job, he felt uncomfortable and even asked to be moved elsewhere in the organization.

"He felt he was being called into question and was relieved of some of his duties and he became more unsure. He took it hard and felt he was getting singled out" his widow Maria told Sveriges Television (SVT) last year.

Persson's colleagues reported his depression to senior management, but only a minimal investigation was carried out. The probe was headed by one of the bosses who was convicted on Wednesday.

After the investigation, Persson was told in April 2010 that he hadn't been bullied in the workplace, but that he was guilty of several wrongdoings and his job was at risk. Persson was to be formally informed his impending termination during a June 2010 meeting. But the meeting never took place because Persson had taken his life earlier that day.

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The court said that the bosses had failed to take sufficient measures to stop the bullying. Through carelessness and gross negligence they had caused Larsson's depression and later, his suicide, the court ruled.

Defence lawyers for the two bosses claimed their clients had done everything they could to prevent the bullying, arguing the charges should be dismissed.

SEE ALSO: Sweden launches global anti-bullying centre

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