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Employee petition no ground for dismissal

According to a judgment by the Higher Regional Labour Court Hamm (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG), collecting signatures at the workplace may not be reason enough to justify a dismissal for cause (judgment dated 2 July 2014, docket number 4 Sa 235/14).

In the case at hand, an employee was collecting signatures at work to support his wish to return to a 35 hour working week. When the employer learnt of this endeavour, the employee was dismissed for cause without a notice period. The employee subsequently successfully challenged the dismissal. The court held that there had not been any misconduct on the employee’s part that would justify his dismissal.

According to the court, the employee’s efforts to return to the 35 hour working week were covered by the statutorily protected right of employees to discuss and complain about work-related issues. The court also rejected other grounds for dismissal brought forward by the employer. While the employee had collected the signatures during working hours, the court considered this as reasonable behavior lasting only for a short time. The employee did not neglect his duty to work. As the employer was also unable to demonstrate that the employee had exercised undue pressure or had caused trouble at work, the dismissal was held invalid.

Ultimately, however, the court dissolved the employee’s contract upon application of the employer. Under sec. 9 of the Unfair Dismissal Protection Act (Kündigungsschutzgesetz, KSchG) it is possible to dissolve an employment relationship upon request if the parties cannot reasonably be expected to continue the employment relationship. In the case at hand, it turned out that the employee had lied during the course of the court proceedings. Thus, the court found that the necessary trust basis for an ongoing employment relationship was lacking and dissolved the contract with a severance payment.