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Workplace gossip: Untrue allegations can justify dismissal

Untrue defamatory allegations about superiors and colleagues may justify a dismissal, according to the Higher Labour Court of Berlin-Brandenburg (LAG – docket number: 19 Sa 322/ 13).

During her employment as an assistant in the finance department of a commune, the plaintiff accused colleagues of heavy drinking and engaging in sexual activities during working hours. The employer terminated the plaintiff’s employment on notice in response to these allegations.

The plaintiff challenged the termination before the court. The Higher Labour Court ruled that the termination was valid. After having heard witness evidence, the Court decided that the allegations were untrue and therefore constituted a serious breach of the plaintiffs contractual duties. As a result, it was not reasonable for the employer to continue the employment relationship.

This decision is in line with the jurisdiction of the Federal Labour Court that enables employers to promote a harmonious working environment. However, before terminating an employee on such grounds, an employer must carefully investigate the truth of any such accusations. A failure to do so could result in an unfair dismissal.