An employer’s executive prerogative entails being able to order business trips abroad if the employee commits himself to undertake this kind of service in his or her employment contract. That was the verdict of the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Baden-Württemberg [Regional Labour Court of Baden-Württemberg].
In many industries, business trips come with the territory for a lot of employees. In the wake of globalization, business trips no longer mean simply travelling within Germany or to neighbouring countries but also further afield to countries such as China. We at the law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that according to a ruling of the LAG Baden-Württemberg from September 6, 2017 (Az.: 4 Sa 3/17)), an employer is able to order these kinds of business trips by virtue of its executive prerogative if the “versprochene Dienste”, i.e. the promised services, set out in the employment contract pursuant to sec. 611 para. 1 of the Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch (BGB) [Germany’s Civil Code] can naturally be associated with occasional foreign assignments.
The case before the LAG concerned an engineer who had been employed for about 30 years at a machine manufacturer and was rarely sent on business trips, and on those rare occasions only to countries nearby. However, he was then made to travel to China. From the employee’s point of view, the hotel, service and location of the accommodation left much to be desired. He viewed the trip as a form of victimization by his employer and brought a legal action to prevent his employer from being allowed to send him on business trips abroad, at least not to distant countries.
The LAG dismissed the claim, stating that although an employee need not accept intolerable accommodation while abroad, he can be sent on business trips. Moreover, the employer can set out in more detail the working hours, places of work and what the work entails as it reasonably sees fit as long as no contractual or collectively agreed provisions preclude this. The Court held that in this case the employer’s right to issue instructions in relation to the place of work was not limited by the employment contract due to the lack of a clear provision on this issue. The fact that the work owed by the engineer was not limited to a single location was said to be evident from a provision in the employment contract concerning compensation for travel expenses. The LAG went on to say that this kind of arrangement made no sense in the absence of an obligation to go on business trips, and gave leave to appeal.
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