When Common Sense Rules the Day

It's nice to know that, even if it is in the rare case, the legal system can sometimes produce common sense results unmuddied by odd hypotheticals and out-of-date notions. Unfortunately it sometimes takes going abroad and searching alternate legal systems to find examples, but it nonetheless feels like the German court in this wrongful firing suit got things right.

You see, Mr. Oliver Beel lost his job after he plugged in his electronic Segway vehicle and cost his firm nearly 2 euro cents in electric charges. Trimming the fat and eliminating wasteful spending are one thing, but Blawgconomics agrees with the court that firing a man after 19 years of employment over a few pennies is a bit disproportionate.

1 comment:

  1. Christian Schilling5/11/10 07:20

    The BAG (Federal Court of Labour) slightly changed his doctrine towards crimes committed "against" the employer.

    The whole problem is based on sec 626 German BGB:

    "Section 626. Termination without notice for a compelling reason.

    (1) The service relationship may be terminated by either party to the contract for a compelling reason without complying with a notice period if facts are present on the basis of which the party giving notice cannot reasonably be expected to continue the service relationship to the end of the notice period or to the agreed end of the service relationship, taking all circumstances of the individual case into account and weighing the interests of both parties to the contract."

    Basically, the doctrine remains valid that any crime, it may be a damage of 2 cents or less, irreversibly disrupts the so called "relationship of trust" between employer and employee. The BAG renewed this point of view in many rulings.

    Recently, some of those cases drew mass media's attention, so the issue was discussed among a broader public. Especially trade unions and leftist politicians tried to use the doctrine to criticise capitalism (exploitation of working class).

    From a legal point of view, the past rulings of the BAG were perfectly right. Morally, it is not surprising that observers had serious doubts.

    Thus in the latest case, the BAG softened the doctrine a little bit, ruling that other factors, like the duration of the labour contract, the severity of the crime committed and also the previous behaviour of the employee have to be considered.

    Even this "change" is not really a change, since the law aforementioned explicitly requires consideration of "all circumstances". In my opinion, the BAG just stressed what was obvious before.