Employment Law

German employment law: employee fired for refusing to work

A court in Germany has ruled that under German employment law, an employee who refuses to work out of protest at low pay can be dismissed without notice.

German employment law: employee fired for refusing to work © eschwarzer-Fotolia

German employment law: employee fired for refusing to work © eschwarzer-Fotolia

German employment law and refusing to work

The judgement was handed down by the District Employment Tribunal of Schleswig-Holstein. The claimant in the case had been employed with the defendant for over a year as a floor layer. For certain floor laying activities, the employee earned commission; and for other activities a basic wage of 12 euros an hour.

The employee was given assigned the task of laying flooring in 40 almost identical houses. This required certain preparatory tasks. After two days’ work the employee calculated his average pay and discovered that it amounted to € 7.86 an hour gross.

The employee expressed his concerns to the director. He requested a reasonable hourly rate of pay or to be transferred. The director refused both requests and in a number of forceful conversations demanded that the employee recommence his activities. The director then threatened the employee with immediate dismissal. The employee continued to refuse to work and as a result was dismissed without notice.

The court of first instance granted the employee’s claim for wrongful dismissal, arguing that he should have been given another chance to reconsider his position.

Dismissal without notice justified

The District Employment Tribunal of Schleswig-Holstein, however, reversed the decision. The court ruled that the employee should not have refused to work but should have completed the task. The fact that the agreement concerning pay was insufficient did not entitle the employee to refuse to work. Any dispute as to the level of pay should have been brought once the invoice had been submitted. The fact that the employee was mistaken as to his rights to refuse performance was irrelevant. If employees refuse to work, they must bear the responsibility for any legal errors they make.

Given the employees persistent refusal to work, the court considered dismissal without notice to be justified.

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Nicola Simon ist Fachanwältin für Arbeitsrecht. Sie hat sich sowohl auf die Beratung der Arbeitnehmer, als auch der Arbeitgeber und Betriebsräte spezialisiert. Seit 2008 ist sie Referentin beim Medien- und Gründerzentrum.

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