Fights between work colleagues that become physical can give rise to termination of an employment contract without notice. The key factor is the intensity of any physical altercation.
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: If they have good cause to do so, employment law stipulates that employers are able to terminate an employment contract without notice. According to the jurisprudence of the Bundesarbeitsgericht, Germany’s Federal Labour Court, good cause can also encompass physical violence between co-workers. In a given case, it ultimately comes down to the severity, intensity and consequences associated with the assault. Depending on the circumstances, the employer might only be able to issue ordinary notice of termination, or a formal written warning may suffice as an employment-related sanction.
In a case that came before the Landesarbeitsgericht Hamm (Regional Labour Court of Hamm), for instance, it was held that dismissal without notice was not justified (Az.: 13 Sa 576/15). The plaintiff employee had worked as a driver for the company in question. Over time, he had received multiple formal warnings for various reasons.
One regulation within the company provided that the late-shift driver always had to lock up a specific door. When the plaintiff failed to comply with this instruction, a co-worker brought this to the former’s attention. A verbal altercation subsequently ensued that ultimately resulted in the plaintiff grabbing his colleague by the collar, with the plaintiff immediately releasing his grip upon being requested to do so. The employer dismissed the plaintiff without notice in response to this incident, stating that it was unacceptable to threaten a co-worker and that this represented a serious disruption to peaceful workplace relations. Moreover, it argued that there was a significant risk of this behaviour being repeated.
The employee denied the account of the physical altercation and successfully challenged his dismissal. The LAG Hamm ruled that the dismissal without notice was ineffective; the circumstances were not sufficient to justify dismissal with immediate effect. It went on to say that while the plaintiff had committed substantial violations of his duties, the violence was less intense and was also stopped immediately. Thus, termination without notice was not justified in the case of this married father-of-two.
Terminating an employment contract can prove to be difficult. Lawyers who are competent in the field of employment law can advise on preparing employment contracts, notices of termination, severance packages as well as with respect to other issues pertaining to employment law.
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