The German Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht, BAG; docket no. 6 AZR 471/15) recently had to review a decision made by the Nuremberg Higher Labour Court (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG; docket no. 7 Sa 124/15) that considered a first-time DUI violation not sufficient for an immediate termination of a truck driver’s employment contract. The Federal Labour Court considered it irrelevant whether the truck driver used methamphetamine (“Crystal Meth”) before or during his work shift and therefore overruled the Nuremberg court, finding that the immediate termination of the contract was valid.
While the truck driver used Crystal Meth on a Saturday, his consumption was discovered the following Tuesday through a police check that involved drug screening. Upon hearing about this incident, the employer immediately terminated his employment contract after the truck driver was given a chance to explain himself. The employer’s decision to terminate the contract immediately was also influenced by the fact that his freight forwarding company’s only client insisted on reliable drivers, meaning that unreliability would not only require the company to pay contractual fines, but would also lead to termination of the shipping contract. The termination was based on section 626 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB) which allows termination of employment contracts with immediate effect. While the Nuremberg court considered drug usage an appropriate reason for immediate termination, it considered the termination disproportionate as the drug usage may have occurred for the first time. However, the Federal Labour Court stated that the Nuremberg court failed to assess the typical risks arising from truck drivers driving under the influence. In its decision to dismiss the unfair dismissal litigation brought by the truck driver, the Federal Labour Court declared that it was not relevant whether the truck driver posed a concrete and actual threat to road traffic.