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Argentina: Is the employer entitled to change the place of work?

In the case “Oribe, Juan Carlos c/ Unidad de Gestión Operativa Ferroviaria de Emergencia S.A (UGOFESA) y otro s/juicio sumarísimo” the Labour Court ruled that the change of the employee´s place of work breached labour laws.

Argentine Labour Law sets forth that the employer may change the terms and conditions of the labour contract as long as those changes are reasonable, do not alter the essential terms of the employment contract and do not cause harm or loss to the employee. If these requirements are not met, the employee may claim the reinstatement of the prior terms and conditions that were changed, under warning of considering himself constructively dismissed, and claim compensation for dismissal for no cause, as provided by local labour laws. In light of the above, any single change should be duly justified and not cause any harm or loss to the employee.

In this particular case, the Argentine Labour Court decided that the change of the place of work of the employee (a union delegate) breached labour laws, since the new place was located 70 kilometers away from the employee´s domicile, and the employer neither reduced the working hours nor paid the employee any additional compensation for the change.

These circumstances led the Argentine Labour Court to conclude that the employee had to spend more time devoted to work (due to the additional time he needed to commute to work) and also that the employee collected less salary (due to the financial burden imposed on him as a result of the additional travel expenditures he incurred) and also that the employee had less time to devote to his personal and family life, without any additional compensation or any reduction of the working time.

The Argentine Labour Court concluded that the employer altered the essential terms of the employment contract to the  detriment of the employee and ordered employer to reinstate the former working conditions and pay defendant damages as compensation, since the employee was a union delegate.

This case shows that it is best practice for employers to assess the risks of changing the working place on a case by case basis, taking into consideration the new working location, the actual domicile of each employee, the time devoted to commute to work, the family members of each employee and if the employee´s working place has changed systematically in the past, among other circumstances. Additionally, employers can explore offering their employees additional compensation for travel expenses or reduced working hours in proportion to the additional time required to commute to work, among other alternatives, to mitigate this risk.