Ricardo Castillo Arancibia v. Municipality of Monte Patria
Jurisdiction: Court of Appeal of La Serena; Supreme Court of Chile
Side A: Ricardo Castillo Arancibia (Individual)
Side B: Municipality of Monte Patria (Government)
Core objectives: Whether climate change's impact on the environmental circumstances was a legal justification for terminating the plaintiff employment contract.
Summary“Ricardo Castillo Arancibia con Municipalidad de Monte Patria”
As described in the lawsuit filed on February 4, 2022, the plaintiff entered into a contract with the defendant the Municipality of Monte Patria in May 2017 for services related to the Department of the Environment, where he maintained the city's gardens and public spaces, kept a record of the city plants, and trees, and shrub needs, and designed gardens for public spaces and schools. It was initially fixed until December 31, 2017 and then renewed every three months based on the evaluation of the person in charge of the Department. There were successive renewals of contracts until 31 December 2019.
On January 2, 2020, the Municipality amended his contract, assigning him the tasks of "planning the recovery of public spaces, designing and executing projects for green areas under its Environment Director". Upon November 30, 2021, the defendant notified him of the termination of his contract ("non-renewal"), and he was dismissed on December 31, 2021. According to the plaintiff, he was dismissed for political reasons and due to a discriminatory act by the defendant.
According to the municipality, the complaint should be rejected. It states that since the employee is a public worker, the termination does not have to be justified since the contract's expiration suffices. It is claimed, however, that the termination of the contract was due to a restructuring of the Department of the Environment, as extreme drought requires actions that favour the sustainable use of water resources and address the drought in Monte Patria, which requires different planning than what has been done so far by the plaintiff.
Due to the fixed-term nature of the contract, the Ovalle District Court rejected the claim, stating that the defendant municipality did not have to justify its termination. As for climate change, it maintains that the separation of the plaintiff was caused by an administrative reorganization affecting the unit or department where the plaintiff worked, such as Environment. The judgment indicates that the prolonged drought affecting the province and much of the country is public knowledge, so it seems reasonable to adopt measures to optimize water resources and reduce green areas of the commune, which happens to be the operational area of the plaintiff both in planning, monitoring and care; and this measure has justified the rationing of human resources for the plaintiff's responsibilities.
The plaintiff filed an action for annulment before the Court of Appeals for the City of La Serena. According to him, the dismissal was unjustified and politically motivated. Regarding the argument that the Department of the Environment should be restructured, he maintains that the climate crisis has been around the city for over 20 years, and that his work focuses specifically on water resource optimization, which demonstrates the weakness of the Municipality's argument.
The Court of Appeals of La Serena dismissed the appeal without addressing the defendant's climate change argument. A new legal recourse for unification of jurisprudence was filed by the plaintiff against this judgment before the Supreme Court. The legal action is still pending.