In the dismissal protection proceedings, everything was in the plaintiff’s favor. The Labor Court of Cologne had already decided at first instance that the dismissal was invalid. Furthermore, the Higher Labor Court of Cologne had also decided in the appeal proceedings in its ruling of September 21, 2020, that both the extraordinary and the ordinary terminations were invalid. However, since the plaintiff twisted the truth in his statements, the relationship of trust with the employer had broken down, resulting in the termination of the employment relationship, in return for a a severance payment (Ref.: 3 Sa 599/19).
How It Started: Unauthorized Annual Leave
The employee had been employed in a senior position for a number of years when he took unauthorized leave on his own initiative. As a result, his employer terminated his employment for cause, without notice and, alternatively, with notice.
At first instance, his dismissal protection claim was largely successful: the unauthorized leave was in itself an important reason for termination without notice. Upon evaluation of the overall circumstances, however, the court found that this was insufficient. The fact that the plaintiff had submitted an application for leave which had not yet been decided was particularly in the plaintiff’s favor. Both the extraordinary and the ordinary terminations were invalid.
Wrong Statements During the Proceedings
The employer filed an appeal against the ruling. According to the employer, the employee had deliberately made false statements several times in the proceedings regarding the arrangements of his application for leave and the handling of applications for leave in the company.
The employee alleged that the employee responsible for annual leave applications had told him that individual annual leave days could be taken without express approval. He said this was the case if these vacation days were entered in a corresponding computer program and in the calendar. However, this was not true.
For this reason, in the event that the termination would be nevertheless invalid, the employer applied for termination of the employment contract in return for a severance payment.
Termination of the Employment Contract
With this application, the employer was successful before the Higher Labor Court of Cologne. The Higher Labor Court confirmed that the extraordinary termination without notice was invalid because it lacked the required important ground. Moreover, the termination with notice was not socially justified, as the employer did not provide sufficient behavior-related reasons for the termination. Nevertheless, the application for termination of the employment relationship was justified, stated the Higher Labor Court.
If the declared termination is not socially justified, yet there are reasons why the parties to the contract can no longer be expected to cooperate in a constructive manner, an employment relationship can be terminated upon the employer’s application. Thus, the employee’s conduct in the dismissal protection proceedings could also justify the dissolution of the employment relationship, e. g. if he deliberately makes false statements. The court found that this was the case here.
Relationship of Trust Broken Down
The credible testimony of another employee disproved the plaintiff’s statements regarding the handling of applications for annual leave in the company. By making untrue statements during the trial, the employee had fundamentally destroyed the relationship of trust. Especially when it comes to employees in high-ranking positions, however, mutual trust is a necessary prerequisite for beneficial cooperation. Since this trust had now been severely damaged, the employment relationship was terminated in return for a severance payment.
The employees must present their case truthfully in proceedings for protection from dismissal. False allegations can lead to the termination of the employment relationship even if the dismissal itself had been invalid.