The Higher Labour Court Hessen (LAG Hessen) ruled on 22 April 2015 (docket number 2 Sa 1305/14) that an extraordinary termination based on the employee’s threat during internal integration management proceedings to run amok may be invalid as a result of a balancing of interests.
In Germany an extraordinary termination without notice requires an important reason for the termination. Such a reason requires (i) a reason justifying the termination itself and (ii) that after a balancing of interests the employer’s interest in ending the employment relationship prevails over the employee’s interest in continuing the relationship.
In the present case the employer threatened to run amok while taking part in internal integration management proceedings. The objective of internal integration management is to develop a strategy to overcome inability to work and to prevent repeated inability to work with appropriate support and benefits. To make the proceedings work the employee needs to entrust the employer and other relevant people with information about his or her personal physical and psychological condition. The employee is under exceptional emotional stress which is not comparable to an ordinary staff appraisal. That is why, according to the Higher Labour Court, internal integration management proceedings constitute a protected environment in which the employee does not need to fear for his job.
Although the threat to run amok and hurt the employer as well as fellow employees did constitute a valid reason to end the employment relationship, the court found that the employer’s interest in ending the employment relationship did not prevail in this individual case. The Higher Labour Court considered the special situation of the employee during internal integration management proceedings as well as the fact that the employee worked for the employer for about 20 years. Furthermore, it became clear during the internal integration management proceedings that the employer intended to assign the employee tasks which he was not able to perform according to medical advice, which put further pressure on the employee. Furthermore, according to a medical opinion of the same day the employee did not show any signs of intending to act on his threats. Accordingly the Higher Labour Court considered the employee’s threats to be a spur-of-the-moment reaction not justifying extraordinary termination.
This decision of the Higher Labour Court shows the strong protection an employee receives during internal integration management proceedings under German law.