Coronavirus: Employer’s resource centre — live guidance available here

Costa Concordia captain sues for unfair dismissal

Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

The captain of the stricken cruise ship Costa Concordia is suing for unfair dismissal after being sacked for gross negligence by Costa Cruises.

Captain Francesco Schettino is widely regarded as being responsible for crashing the ship into rocks off the island of Giglio in northern Italy in January this year, in an accident which resulted in the deaths of 32 people. The ship had been steered dangerously close to the island by the Captain in a manoeuvre known as a salute.  

His infamy soon spread around the world and he was held up as a model of gross incompetence and negligence, particularly following the release of coastguard recordings showing that Captain Schettino abandoned ship before the evacuation was complete. 

In a particularly stinging attack, one coastguard can be head demanding that he “Get back on board, damn it”- a phrase which has since become popular in Italy as a T-shirt slogan. The Captain later claimed he had “tripped” into a lifeboat and did not intend to abandon ship. Unfortunately for him, overwhelming evidence to the contrary was quickly beamed around the world both via traditional news outlets and on the internet.  

It is difficult to imagine that Schettino will be successful in his attempt to sue his former employers and get his job back- one would hope that the Costa Cruises' staff handbook points out somewhere that nonchalantly ramming your ship into rocks, seemingly on a whim, is gross misconduct. However, as his lawyer Bruno Leporatti correctly points out "It is the right of every worker to appeal against his dismissal and Captain Schettino has done no more than exercise that right". Meanwhile, the criminal trial against Schettino for multiple manslaughter and abandoning ship continues.

© Copyright of Law At Work 2021 Law At Work is part of Marlowe plc’s employee relations division