Official instructions from one’s superior do not automatically amount to bullying. That was the verdict of the Landesarbeitsgericht Niedersachsen (Regional Labour Court of Lower Saxony) on February 3, 2016 (Az.: 2 Sa 441/15).
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Workplace bullying is a much debated issue. However, not every event or instance that leaves an employee feeling neglected or unfairly treated amounts to bullying. This comes from a recent judgment of the Landesarbeitsgericht Niedersachsen.
The LAG had to grapple with a legal action brought by a woman who had accused her employer of bullying and therefore lodged claims regarding her salary entitlement, for damages as well as compensation for personal suffering. The woman had been employed for about 20 years as an equal opportunities officer in an administrative district. When a new district administrator was elected in 2011, he appeared to make changes to several internal processes. The woman complained that she was being increasingly involved less in these processes and information flows, stating that the new district administrator had undermined her position. In the following months, the woman more frequently became sick and was consistently absent from 2013. She was ultimately recalled by the district assembly in 2014.
The woman’s action was unsuccessful at first instance. The Arbeitsgericht (Labour Court) in question recognized that the employer had not caused the woman to become ill. It went on to say that it was not able to identify any purposeful bullying behaviour. This view was later shared by the LAG in appeal proceedings. It held that while the new district administrator had issued new instructions at the beginning of his term in office, these concerned many employees and not merely the plaintiff. The Court was not able to discern any bullying behaviour directed at the woman and this was also not the cause of her illness, particularly in view of the fact that the plaintiff had already fallen ill for the first time shortly after the new district administrator had assumed office. The Court’s efforts to bring the employment relationship to an amicable end by way of a settlement proved fruitless.
Dismissal is one of the most common points of contention between employer and employee in the field of employment law. In order to give effective notice of dismissal, it is necessary to observe various legal regulations. This is all the more important in the case of extraordinary dismissal with immediate effect. Lawyers who are competent in the field of employment law can advise on preparing employment contracts, dismissal notices, severance packages as well as with regard to other matters pertaining to employment law.
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