LAG Rheinland-Pfalz: Dismissal with immediate effect for causing serious offence valid

Published 17 February 2017

Seriously offending one’s work colleagues constitutes good cause justifying exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect. That was the verdict of the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Rheinland-Pfalz [Regional Labour Court of Rhineland-Palatinate] (Az.: 4 Sa 350/15).

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Even if there is a relaxed atmosphere at a given workplace, boundaries still need to be observed. Seriously offending work colleagues, for instance, cannot be justified with reference to an easy-going atmosphere. On the contrary, it may result in exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect, as demonstrated by a ruling of the Landesarbeitsgericht Mainz from May 18, 2016.

In the instant case, a nurse had received both exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect and, in the alternative, ordinary notice of dismissal. She had seriously offended a colleague multiple times in a text. This wasn’t the first time that the nurse had drawn attention to herself, having already received a formal written warning for causing offence, among other things. Her action for unfair dismissal was unsuccessful.

The LAG Rheinland-Pfalz held that there had been good cause rendering dismissal with immediate effect effective, stating that seriously insulting one’s work colleagues could constitute a severe violation of an employee’s duties and is in and of itself sufficient to justify exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect. The Court ruled that in view of the severity of the breach of duty, the present case did not require a previous formal warning. Nonetheless, the nurse had already received a formal warning for similar conduct. Moreover, after weighing up the respective interests, there was still no grounds for precluding exceptional notice of dismissal. The Court went on to say that while the nurse’s nearly 20 years with the employer spoke in her favour, an employer cannot be expected to tolerate causing serious affront to work colleagues. It stated that the nurse’s conduct was liable to irreparably damage peace within the workplace. Taking into account all of the circumstances, the Court concluded that it was no longer reasonable to expect the employer to continue the employment relationship, not even until the notice period of dismissal had expired.

Notwithstanding this, whether exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect is effective is always a decision that is made on a case-by-case basis. The decisive factor is the weighing up of interests. If more weight ought to be given to the employer’s interest in terminating the employment relationship, it is possible for exceptional notice of dismissal to be effective. That is why notice of dismissal should always be well prepared. Lawyers who are experienced in the field of employment law can advise employers on matters relating to dismissal as well as other legal issues.

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