When workplace disputes arise, one needs to be mindful in choosing how to respond. Threatening to involve the press, for instance, can result in one’s employment contract being terminated.
GRP Rainer Lawyers in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Dismissal is one of the most common contentious issues in employment law. That being said, any disputes ought to proceed in a legally sound manner and not get out of hand, as happened in a case that the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Rheinland-Pfalz (Regional Labour Court of Rhineland-Palatinate) had to rule on (Az.: 5 Sa 313/15).
In the instant case, a company was unsatisfied with the work performance and people skills of one of its employees working as a production manager. Over the course of several discussions, the former proposed to the latter an agreement to terminate the employment relationship in return for payment of a severance package. The employee refused on each occasion to sign such an agreement. In response to this, the company forbid the production manager from setting foot in the production area and moved his office into a conference room where there was neither a computer nor a telephone. Soon afterwards, the company issued ordinary notice of termination on account of unsatisfactory performance.
The employee subsequently contacted a lawyer who demanded in a letter to the parent company, among other things, that a proper working environment be provided for. Failing this, the threat was made that the press would be informed about the conditions within the company. Both sides stood their ground until the employee ultimately filed an action for wrongful dismissal. The company then took the necessary measures to dismiss the action and, in the alternative, terminate the employment relationship in return for payment of a severance package.
The LAG Rheinland-Pfalz granted the claim for wrongful dismissal, stating that the dismissal was socially unjustified. It held that in the case of dismissal based on poor work performance, a prior formal written warning is absolutely necessary. However, the Court went on to say that the employment relationship was to be dissolved in return for payment of a severance package, as productive collaboration was no longer to be expected under the circumstances. While dissolving the employment relationship is seldom an option, if trusting cooperation no longer appears possible then there may be grounds justifying dissolution. Thus, the lawyer’s conduct in threatening the parent company with contacting the press destroyed the basis for continued collaboration based on trust, such that the employment contract had to be dissolved.
When it comes to workplace disputes, it is essential to obtain competent legal advice from lawyers who are experienced in the field of employment law.