The Higher Labor Court Baden-Württemberg (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG) ruled on 21 October 2015 (docket number: 4 TaBV 2/15) that the local works council may be the competent employee’s representative body to negotiate with when it comes to whether employees can request a temperature-dependent dress code, even if the dress code itself has been agreed on in a company-wide works council agreement with the central works council (Gesamtbetriebsrat).
For all operations in Germany, the central works council and the employer (a bank) agreed on a works council agreement which obliges the employees to observe a certain dress code consisting of shirt/blouse, pants/skirt and tie. However, the local works council competent for the operations in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria requested a modified dress code depending on the indoor temperature. Since the parties did not reach a mutual agreement a conciliation committee was called (Einigungsstelle). The conciliation committee decided that the employees were entitled to wear pullovers in case of low temperatures or take ties off in case of higher temperatures. The employer challenged this decision before the Labor court arguing that the competence to decide on the dress code falls within the exclusive competence of the central works council.
The Higher Labor Court did not confirm this view. Instead, the Higher Labor Court ruled that while the central works council was competent to establish a dress code, the deviation at local level is a matter of health protection for which the local works council is competent. The Higher Labor Court stated further that this overlapping of competences regarding dress code and health protection must be accepted, especially since the deviations due to temperature do not affect the dress code itself.