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There’s no fool like an apprentice fool….

The Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG) ruled on February 12, 2015 (docket number: 6 AZR 845/13) that (amongst other things) the termination of an apprentice for serious cause based on suspicion of a crime was capable of being justified.

The plaintiff completed his apprenticeship as a bank officer at the company’s office. After he had counted the content of the bank’s safe during working time, the company discovered that EUR 500 was missing.  During an internal investigation hearing, the plaintiff stated the exact amount of money that had gone missing, without having seen or heard any evidence on this from the company.  The company argued that only the offender could have known the exact amount that had been stolen, and terminated the apprenticeship with immediate effect.

The Federal Labour Court ruled that a significant reason such as a suspicion of a criminal act may justify the termination for serious cause even of an apprentice. The Federal Labour Court stated further that the company was not obliged to inform the plaintiff about the nature of the hearing (suspicion of a criminal act) nor the possibility of contacting a “person of trust” prior to the hearing. The Federal Labour Court did not confirm the plaintiff’s view that evidence was excluded due to violation of data protection rights. Since there is no clear case law in Germany on the legal requirements of internal (compliance) investigations, this judgment is welcomed in so far as it clarifies employers’ obligations prior to employee hearings.