19. Jan 16

LAG Düsseldorf on the conditions for termination without notice

Employment contracts can be terminated without notice for good cause. Whether a serious cause justifies termination is ultimately decided on a case-by-case basis.

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: Employment law provides that an employer can announce termination of an employment contract without notice if it has good cause for doing so. A good cause must, however, be of such significance that it would no longer be reasonable for the employer to have to continue the employment relationship. This leaves considerable room for interpretation. For employers, this means drafting employment contracts in as much detail as possible, as termination without notice may be ineffective in the absence of appropriate provisions.

This was demonstrated in a case that was decided by the Landesarbeitsgericht Düsseldorf (Regional Labour Court of Düsseldorf) on September 16, 2015. An employee had made repeated use of the company telephone in order to take part in a radio contest, with each call costing 50 cents. While the employee was permitted to make use of the company’s telephone system even to make private calls, calls to special rate numbers had not been expressly allowed or banned.

The company confronted the employee when it came to its attention that a total of 37 calls had been made to the radio hotline. The latter admitted to having made the calls and offered to pay the associated charges. Three days later, the employer terminated the employment contract with ordinary notice and, in the alternative, without notice.

However, the LAG Düsseldorf held that the termination without notice was invalid. Although private telephone calls were allowed, it stated that the calls to the fee-based contest hotline constituted a breach of duty on the part of the employee, yet this was not sufficiently serious to justify termination without notice. The Court went on to say that the fact that the plaintiff had been allowed to make private use of the telephone and the calls were made during her breaks meant that this was not a case of fraud relating to working hours. No legal action was taken against the ordinary notice of termination. It is likely that such an action would have been unsuccessful, since the employee worked in a small firm and therefore did not benefit from any special protection against dismissal.

Terminating an employment contract can potentially prove to be challenging. Lawyers who are competent in the field of employment law can advise on drafting employment contracts, termination, severance payments as well as other matters pertaining to employment law.

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