Al Capone freaked out – and suddenly carnival had become a serious matter…

Carnival is about to take place in two weeks. Therefore, a recent decision of the Higher Labour Court Düsseldorf (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG) of 22 December 2015 (docket number 13 Sa 957/15) might be of interest in respect of the numerous upcoming corporate Carnival events.

In the case at hand the parties argued about the validity of a dismissal for good cause with immediate effect. The plaintiff had been employed by the defendant since 1987. He is severely disabled. The plaintiff went to a corporate Carnival party masquerading as “Al Capone”. Demanding the tradition of the Women’s Carnival (Weiberfastnacht) two female colleagues tried to cut off the plaintiff’s tie, but he refused. Shortly thereafter the plaintiff was involved in a dispute with another employee dressed as a clown, during which the clown was injured. A monitoring camera had recorded the incident. The employer accused the plaintiff of having kicked the clown’s belly and punched him in the face. Furthermore, the plaintiff had thrown his beer in the clown’s face and bumped the empty glass into his face. The beer glass shattered and the emergency doctor had to remove several glass fragments out of the clown’s forehead. The plaintiff argued that he had been insulted by both the women and the clown. As a consequence he had pushed the clown and tried to kick him without touching him. He was worried that the clown might have wanted to attack him. Afterwards his memory faded. He claimed not be guilty, since he had only reacted in this way due to an anxiety disorder. With the consent of the integration office the employer terminated the employment relationship for good cause with immediate effect based on the violent attack. The Higher Labour Court analyzed the videos from the employer’s monitoring camera and ruled that the plaintiff’s violent behavior was adequate to justify termination with immediate effect.

With its decision the Higher Labour Court confirmed the decision of the Labour Court Düsseldorf. An appeal was not permitted.