23 Nov 2021 Deliberately disturbed employment relationship?

The employee reported sick on 22 September 2019. On 8 July 2020, the employer sent the employee a letter informing him that his employment contract would end by operation of law on 1 September 2020 and that it would not be continued. In response, the employee started proceedings before the Subdistrict Court in which he claimed that his employment was for an indefinite period. What was the opinion of the court?

Employer SCS subsequently submitted a request to the Subdistrict Court to terminate the employment contract, based on the g-ground (disrupted employment relationship). After it was no longer in dispute between the parties that the employment contract was for an indefinite period, the Subdistrict Court ruled in the contested decision that the prohibition on dismissal in the event of illness was no obstacle for termination of the contract. On account of a serious and lasting disruption in the working relationship, the Court terminated the employment contract with effect from 1 May 2021.

The employee has appealed against this decision. In these proceedings, he applied for reinstatement of the employment contract and, in the alternative, for fair compensation. Despite the prohibition on giving notice during illness, the employment contract can still be terminated if the reason for termination is not related to the employee's illness. In this case, termination was requested on the basis of a disrupted working relationship.

In the period from 17 to 21 September 2021 (i.e. prior to reporting sick), the following occurred. Employee had to deliver a package on 17 September 2019. He was unable to deliver the package because the addressee no longer lived at that address. However, the employee did register the delivery of the package in the registration system. He then took the parcel back and put it in his delivery vehicle. SCS has taken the position that this incident has created a breach of the trust that SCS should be able to place in the employee as a parcel deliverer. The parties agreed that there was indeed a breach in the employment relationship. According to the court of appeal, the request for termination made by the employer had no connection with the employee's illness.

Furthermore, the Court of Appeal ruled that the employment contract had rightly been terminated by the Subdistrict Court due to a disrupted working relationship, to such an extent that the employer could not reasonably be required to allow the employment contract to continue. Furthermore, the employee has very briefly substantiated his point of view on serious culpability of SCS. Furthermore, the Court of Appeal has already considered that the termination of the employment agreement was not caused by seriously culpable acts or omissions by SCS. SCS did not deliberately disrupt the working relationship. The fact that it is clear that the attitude of SCS, as well as that of the employee, has contributed to an even deeper and more fundamental mutual distrust, is not enough to assume serious culpability on the part of SCS. The court of appeal follows the opinion of the Subdistrict Court. If you would like to read the entire ruling, you can do so here.

Do you have any questions about this judgment or any other labour law related questions? SPEE advocaten & mediation will be happy to assist you.

SPEE advocaten & mediation Maastricht


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