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Dismissal on grounds of union change

August 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, employers are not allowed to dismiss an employee simply because the employee's colleagues are dissatisfied with the change of union.

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 about 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. He then sued his employer because he believed that the change of his place of work was related to his change of union, and claimed compensation under the Danish Freedom of Association Act.

Both the lower court and the High Court found for the employee, holding that the employer had breached the Danish Freedom of Association Act. 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 decision to join another union. The employee was therefore awarded DKK 300 000 in compensation, equivalent to 9 months' pay.