Court awards journalist Johanna Korhonen EUR 80,000 in wrongful termination case
Publisher may appeal to Supreme Court
Journalist Johanna Korhonen has been awarded a total of about EUR 80,000 in a case stemming from her sacking from the post of editor-in-chief of the Rovaniemi-based newspaper Lapin Kansa.
On Thursday the Helsinki Court of Appeals ordered Northern Media, a subsidiary of the Alma Media Group, to pay Korhonen EUR 40,803.97 for wrongful termination, as well as severance pay of EUR 34,656 in severance pay, as well as EUR 5,000 in other compensation.
In addition, Northern Media was ordered to pay Korhonen’s court costs of EUR 30,000.
Korhonen had demanded more than EUR 200,000 in damages.
Korhonen was fired from the post before she could start work at the newspaper already in 2008. She felt that the reason for the termination was that she lived in a civil union with another woman.
Alma Media said that a “lack of trust” had emerged after Korhonen had failed to mention her partner in her job interview.
The Court of Appeals felt that it was wrong of Korhonen not to have disclosed the political activities of her partner to her employer. The court also made note of a press release that she put out shortly before her contract was terminated.
“From the point of view of an overall assessment, it is clear that the company’s trust in Korhonen had been broken”, the court noted.
“On the other hand, Korhonen’s violations were relatively small, and they did not cause harm to the company”, the court added.
Contrary to an earlier decision by Helsinki District Court, the Court of Appeals felt that the employer did not have an especially weighty reason to terminate the employment. In the court’s assessment, the revelation that Korhonen was in a relationship with another woman was a significant reason for the termination.
“The company is obliged to pay Korhonen compensation for discrimination”, the court said in its decision issued on Thursday morning.
In addition to the civil case, Helsinki prosecutors are considering the possibility of pressing criminal charges of job discrimination.
Although the award of about EUR 80,000 was considerably less than what she had demanded, Johanna Korhonen welcomed the decision as historically significant.
She noted that the decision was the first in which a Finnish court rules on a case of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Although her award fell short of the more than EUR 200,000 that she had been seeking, Korhonen emphasised that the case was never about the money - if it had been, she says that the matter would have been settled behind the scenes.
Alma Media is unhappy with the court’s decision, and is considering appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Lapin Kansa journalists demand resignation of Alma Media CEO and paper´s editor (3.10.2008)
New editor-in-chief dropped from newspaper, allegedly over lesbian relationship (2.10.2008)
Police suspect Alma Media executive of discriminating against Johanna Korhonen (2.9.2009)
Helsinki court rejects job discrimination lawsuit against Alma Media (10.6.2009)