On 16 September 2015 the Higher Labour Court (Landesarbeitsgericht, LAG) Düsseldorf decided that dialing a fee-based hotline in order to take part in a radio-quiz whilst at work does not justify a termination for good cause with immediate effect (docket number: 12 Sa 630/15).

An employee had dialed a fee-based hotline 37 times from the office’s telephone, each call at a cost of 50 Cent, amounting to an overall amount of 18,50 Euro. The employee in question was responsible for the accounting system and had access to all telephone bills. Being confronted with the bill, she first denied having dialed the number at all. The employer issued a termination for good cause with immediate effect, as well as an alternative ordinary termination. The employee had not received any written warning during the employment relationship before this incident. In the employers’ opinion the relationship of trust had been destroyed.

The Higher Labour Court Düsseldorf ruled in line with prior decisions. Using the telephone in working time for private issues was permitted but there was no clear statement whether private fee-based calls were included in that authorization. Furthermore there had been no written warning. The breach of duty did not justify a termination for good cause with immediate effect. However, the court decided that in conjunction with the responsibility for accounting processes there is a special relationship of trust required between employee and employer. This relationship had  been destroyed by the employee’s behavior and this gave reasonable cause for an ordinary termination.