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Leaving the workplace to take care of a sick dog can lead to termination

The Higher Labour Court Nuremberg (Landesarbeitsgericht Nürnberg, docket number 5 Sa 59/17) ruled on 21 July 2016, that leaving the workplace to take care of a sick dog can lead to termination. The Higher Labour Court confirmed the respective decision of the Labour Court Nürnberg (Arbeitsgericht).

The defendant as an employer operates a pipe cleaning company and employed the plaintiff. The parties agreed a 6-month probationary period from 1 April 2015 until 30 September 2015.

At the beginning of July 2015 the plaintiff’s dog suffered a stroke. As a result the plaintiff called the manager of the defendant and asked for one day’s holiday for the next day. The manager did not grant the day off. The next day, the plaintiff did not come to work and did not submit a certificate of disability (Arbeitsunfähigkeitsbescheinigung) to work for that day. The defendant terminated the employment agreement within the probationary period based on an unexcused absence from work.

The plaintiff alleged that the dismissal violated Sec. 616 German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch). This provision allows an absence from work, if it is based on a reason to do with the person of the employee, e.g. doctor’s appointments during working hours.

The Higher Labour Court ruled that Sec. 616 German Civil Code also covers cases where the employee has to take care of his or her pet, if the pet needs medical attention. However, the employee needs to demonstrate and prove, that this is the case. Therefore the employee needs to inform his employer about the pet’s illness, the medical attention and, in this case, that there was no other possibility to take care of the dog either by a third person or at another time. The plaintiff’s explanation – that he could not attend work because of his dog’s sickness- was, according to the court ruling, not sufficient. The termination was therefore valid.