04. Jul 16

BAG: Claims lapse following expiry of negotiated limitation period

If an employment contract includes a collectively agreed limitation period, any claims need to be asserted in writing within said period of time vis-à-vis the opposing party to the claim.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Employment law provides for the possibility of collectively agreed limitation periods in an employment contract or other forms of agreement between the contracting parties. If this is the case, claims arising from the employment relationship may fail if they are not asserted within the limitation period. If the deadline passes then any claims will lapse. According to a ruling of the Bundesarbeitsgericht (BAG) [Germany’s Federal Labour Court] of March 16, 2016, the important factor when it comes to complying with the deadline is that the opposing party to the claim receives the written complaint in due time. Thus, it is not enough for the written complaint to have been received on time by the competent court (Az.: 4 AZR 421/15).

In the instant case, the plaintiff demanded compensation from his employer for a gap in earnings for the month of June 2013. For the purposes of this employment relationship, the Tarifvertrag für den öffentlichen Dienst der Länder (TVöD) [Collective Wage Agreement for Civil Service Employees] was authoritative, according to which claims arising from the employment relationship shall lapse if they are not asserted within the limitation period of six months. Accordingly, the employee in question needed to have asserted his claims against his employer by December 30, 2013 in the present case. His complaint was received by the competent court on December 18, yet it was not delivered to the employer until January 7, 2014. Because the complaint was thus not received by the employer within the six-month limitation period, the employee’s claims lapsed. The BAG held that it was not sufficient for the complaint to be received by the court within the relevant timeframe; the claims needed to be asserted vis-à-vis the employer before the expiry of the deadline.

The Fourth Senate of the BAG ruled that in the case of collectively agreed limitation periods, compliance with which merely requires written notification, the loss of time resulting from non-obligatory recourse to the courts should be attributed to the creditor.

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