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Dismissal on grounds of change of union

July 2009 - Employment. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

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An employer was not justified in dismissing an employee who changed union. The employee was thus awarded compensation of DKK 300,000.

Union membership is a private matter - not a matter for colleagues. Consequently, an employer is not justified in dismissing an employee because the employee's colleagues are dissatisfied with his or her change of union membership.

The case concerned an employee who ran into problems with his colleagues when he withdrew his membership from the union in which most of the colleagues were a member and joined another union. The colleagues believed that the employee enjoyed the benefits offered by the local branch of the union without contributing. They therefore complained to the employer, citing cooperation problems.

The situation culminated when the employer gave notice that the employee's place of work would be changed from Odense to Svendborg. The employee did not accept this change and therefore chose to consider himself dismissed. The employee then sued the employer because he believed that the change in place of work was based on his change in union membership, which constitutes a breach of the Danish Act on Freedom of Association.

Both the lower court and the Eastern High Court found for the employee and held that the employer had breached the Danish Act on Freedom of Association. Based on statements from his former colleagues, the Court was satisfied that the real reason for changing the employee's place of work was his change in union membership. The employee was therefore awarded compensation of DKK 300,000 corresponding to 9 months' pay.

Norrbom Vinding notes:

  • that the case illustrates that if an employee discharges the burden of proving that his or her employer has breached the Danish Act on Freedom of Association, which requires concrete evidence, the courts are likely to sanction such breach quite severely.

Michael Elof Nielsen