17. Jan 18

LAG Rheinland-Pfalz: Dismissal with immediate effect for damage to property effective

Serious breaches of duty by an employee may justify dismissal with immediate effect. Damage to property can constitute good cause justifying exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect.

An employer is able to issue exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect if it has good cause for doing so and the individual circumstances of the respective case have been sufficiently accounted for. In order for notice of dismissal to be issued effectively, the grounds need to be sufficiently serious such that it would no longer be reasonable to expect the employer to continue the employment relationship. One good cause that may justify dismissal with immediate effect is property damage committed by the employee, as shown by a ruling of the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Rheinland-Pfalz [Regional Labour Court of Rhineland Palatinate] from December 19, 2016 (Az.: 3 Sa 356/16).

In the case in question, an employee had been issued with exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect after having struck a touchscreen monitor out of frustration and thereby shattered the glass of the screen. The employee had previously been informed he would only be receiving a small personal profit-sharing bonus. He had already received a formal written warning for similar reasons several months prior to this.

The dismissed worker raised an action for wrongful dismissal but was unsuccessful. The LAG Rheinland-Pfalz held that by damaging the monitor the employee had committed a serious breach of duty pursuant to his employment contract, and that the employer had incurred a financial loss as a result of this. Moreover, the damage was said to have given rise to a potential hazard because the incident had occurred in a potentially explosive environment. The Court stated that equipment in these kinds of potentially dangerous environments cannot be altered or manipulated as this would impinge on the safety measures in place and safety could no longer be guaranteed. In addition, the Court also noted that the plaintiff had already been issued with a formal warning for a similar breach of duty.

The LAG concluded after weighing up the parties’ mutual interests and considering all of the facts and circumstances of the case that it was no longer reasonable to expect the employer to continue the employment relationship. By damaging the monitor, the employee was said to have not only acted contrary to the employer’s interests but also severely undermined the trust placed in him. The Court went on to point out that not even the formal warning had caused the employee to refrain from his unsafe behavior.

Whether notice of dismissal with immediate effect has been issued effectively is always a case-by-case decision. Employers should therefore carefully prepare before issuing notice of dismissal. Lawyers who are experienced in the field of employment law can advise on all issues pertaining to the workplace.

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