16. Aug 16

Dismissal without notice for private use of work computer effective

Unauthorized private use of a work computer can justify dismissal without notice. That was the verdict of the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Sachsen-Anhalt [Regional Labour Court of Saxony-Anhalt] in its ruling of May 26, 2016.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Private use of a work computer often gives rise to disputes relating to employment law. While it may be tempting for a lot of employees to make use of their work computer for private purposes, if they do so without their employer’s permission then they run the risk of being fired. According to a judgment of the LAG Sachsen-Anhalt from May 26, 2016, this can even result in dismissal without notice (Az.: 6 Sa 23/16).

In the instant case, an employee had apparently used his work computer to make private pirated copies of DVDs and CDs. Based on a number of indications, the LAG took the view that the work computer had been used to copy the files onto blank disks that also belonged to the employer. The Court held that this represented a substantial breach of duty by the employee that permanently destroyed the relationship of trust between employer and employee. It went on to say that the only outcome of a comprehensive weighing of interests would be to the detriment of the employee on account of his substantial breaches of duties. The Court therefore ruled that the employer’s notice of dismissal with immediate effect was effective and rejected the employee’s action for wrongful dismissal, thus overturning a decision of the Arbeitsgericht Halle (Labour Court of Halle).

The Bundesarbeitsgericht, Germany’s Federal Labour Court, delivered a similar judgment in a similar case last summer, ruling that unauthorized use of a work computer by an employee could justify his employer terminating the employment contract with immediate effect (ruling of July 16, 2015; Az.: 2 AZR 85/15).

Certain conditions need to be met in order for dismissal of an employee to be effective, especially in the case of dismissal without notice. The latter may be justified, e.g. if the employee significantly breaches his duties. When it comes to matters pertaining to employment contracts, notices of dismissal etc., employers can turn to lawyers who are experienced in the field of employment law.

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