The Higher Labour Court Rheinland-Pfalz (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG) ruled on February 17, 2016 (docket number 4 Sa 202/15) that the established practice of employing professional football players on a fixed-term basis does not violate German employment laws.
Whereas usually decisions of a Labour Court take only notice at a certain audience, these days such a ruling is suddenly discussed in German sport papers and in sport bars.
At the case at hand, a goalkeeper sued his former Bundesliga club for unlimited employment and payment of missed bonuses. Whilst the Labour Court Mainz dismissed the claim for payment, it decided that the fixed-term contract was unlawful and therefore the employment relationship continued beyond the respective date. Under German employment law a fixed-term employment is generally permissible only up to two years and afterwards only for cause, Sec. 14 para. 1 Part-Time and Fixed-Term Employment Act (Teilzeitbefristungsgesetz – the Act). This news shook the sports and especially the football scene, as it would lead to major reorganization and restructuring requirements. Therefore the decision of the appeal court was highly anticipated.
To the relief of many, the Higher Labour Court Rheinland-Pfalz overruled the Labour Court`s decision yesterday. According to Nr. 4 of Sec. 14 para. 1 of the Act, cause for a fixed term employment may result from the characteristics of the work in question. The Higher Labour Court decided that the characteristics of modern professional football give cause for fixed term employments. The Court justifies this view with the need for change on both sides as well as with similarities to the entertainment sector, where fixed-term contracts are accepted.
Be aware, unless the Bundesliga club will find a quite settlement over the outstanding bonus payments the final decision might still be rendered at a higher instance, since an appeal for revision to the German Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) was granted and an approach to the European Court of Justice is not yet out of the question.