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Dismissal with immediate effect for sending business documents to personal email address effective

March 2018

Anyone sending business documents to his or her personal email address should expect to be dismissed with immediate effect. This comes from a ruling of the Landesarbeitsgericht (LAG) Berlin-Brandenburg [Regional Labour Court of Berlin-Brandenburg] from May 16, 2017.

An employer can terminate an employment relationship without notice if it has good cause to do so. We at the commercial law firm GRP Rainer Rechtsanwälte note that one serious ground which can justify exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect is sending business documents to one’s personal email address. That was the verdict of the LAG Berlin-Brandenburg (Az.: 7 Sa 38/17).

In the case in question, the employer had issued an employee with exceptional notice of dismissal with immediate effect. The employee had received a contractual offer from a competing business. Several weeks before his employment began, he started sending business documents relating to clients and projects to his personal email address. He subsequently received notice of immediate dismissal and, in the alternative, ordinary notice of dismissal. The parties argued about the effectiveness of the notice of dismissal with immediate effect as well as the employee’s claim for payment of two months’ outstanding wages.

The LAG held that the notice of dismissal with immediate effect had been issued effectively. In addition to breaching the principal obligations under the relevant employment contract, the Court ruled that breaching secondary obligations can also constitute good cause justifying dismissal with immediate effect, as the parties to an employment contract are obligated to mutually respect the rights, legal interests and other interests of their contractual partner. That is why the LAG concluded that the employee ought not to have taken possession of the business documents and information and reproduced these for non-business purposes, thereby committing a serious breach of his duty of respect.

The Court took the view that the employee had sent the business documents to his personal email address in order to prepare for his work with the new employer. The LAG found that this had neither occurred with the consent of the employer nor was it covered by provisions in the employment contract. It went on to say that this represented a serious breach of contract that also constituted serious grounds justifying exceptional notice of dismissal, it being no longer reasonable to expect the employer to continue the employment relationship until the end of the ordinary notice period.

Whether exceptional notice of dismissal is effective or not is always decided on a case-by-case basis. Lawyers who are experienced in the field of employment law can advise employers on matters pertaining to dismissals as well as in relation to other employment issues.

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