Labor Court of Lüneburg: Works Council not Permitted to keep Gifts.

Arbeitsgericht Lüneburg: Betriebsrat darf Geschenke nicht behalten.

Two members of a works council took part in several external trainings. At the end of the seminars, the members of the works council were not only given giveaways such as pencils or highlighters, but also tablet PCs and digitalization pens. However, neither the works council members themselves nor the works council as a whole are allowed to keep the gifts. The employer can demand that the items be given to them. This was decided by the Labor Court of Lüneburg (Arbeitsgericht, ArbG) in its ruling of October 2, 2019 (Ref.: 1 BV 5/19).

Non-monetary Resources for the Works Council

In the underlying case, the two works councils had participated in several seminars of one supplier. In addition to the usual training materials such as legal texts, pencils or highlighters, the seminar provider distributed further “non-monetary resources for works council’s work”. These were tablet PCs, including a laptop bag and data pen.

Compliance also Applies to Works Councils

In the company where the works council members are employed, there is, however, a compliance guideline for handling promotional gifts. According to this guideline, gifts with a value of more than ten euros must be handed over. The gifts are raffled off among employees as part of an annual Christmas raffle. In accordance with the compliance guideline, the works council members handed over the equipment to their employer.

Works Council Demanded Return

This was opposed by the works council. It demanded the return of the equipment, or at least that it be made available to the works council as non-monetary resources for its work. The works council reasoned, among other things, that it had not agreed to the handing over of the equipment. The works council further argued that the seminar provider had made the equipment available specifically for the works council’s work.

Labor Court Draws a Clear Line

The reasoning was not accepted by the Labor Court of Lüneburg, which rejected the works council’s application. The works council could not ask the employer to make the equipment available to it or its members. The right of selection of material resources was ultimately the responsibility of the employer. Especially regarding the selection of technical equipment, it is necessary for the employer, under the aspects of compatibility and IT security, to decide which hardware and software it will make available to the works council, according to the Labor Court.

The Way the Works Council Works does not Require Tablets

In addition, neither the tablets nor the electronic pens were necessary for the work of the works council. This was already made clear by the fact that the works council had never requested a tablet before this seminar and had not used it after the training, the Labor Court went on.

The fact that the employer had already paid for the “giveaways” with the seminar fees and thus no further costs were incurred, did not help the works council either. Additionally, the Labor Court was concerned that members of the works council may make the selection of training courses dependent on the value of gifts, rather than on the quality and necessity of the training.