Monday, August 03, 2009

The Culture that is Germany IX

Or, "Nutbush City Limits". This one could almost be an FML, "Today I was fired from my job as a garbage collector for collecting garbage. FML"

On Thursday, a labor court in the southwestern German city of Mannheim ruled that a garbage collector who took a child's travel bed home after finding it in the trash was unlawfully fired. He must now be reinstated. The court found that his dismissal without notice was unwarranted, despite the fact that he did not follow company policy on objects found in the garbage.

In its decision, the court found that: "In objective terms, taking the child's bed away did qualify as theft and, as such, provided ... a valid reason for the firing." But the court ultimately voted in favor of the plaintiff in the belief that the punishment did not fit the crime.

So you may think, well, that's not too bad, he did get his job back after all. Why are you calling Germany "Nutbush"? Well how  'bout this next case then folks?

It was national news in Germany this week when the Federal labour court announced it would revisit the case of Barbara E, known to the public as “Emmely”. For several months her story has had the tabloids and talk shows in an uproar. Last year, after 31 years as a supermarket cashier in Berlin, Emmely was fired by her employer, Kaiser’s, for allegedly taking €1.30 ($1.83, £1.11) worth of bottle-return coupons that a customer had lost, and cashing them for herself. There is a long line of cases in German law involving Bagatelldiebstahl – employees fired for stealing such items as fish sandwiches and pieces of cheesecake. A company is permitted to terminate an employment contract whenever the “relationship of trust” is broken. Airtight evidence is not necessary; credible suspicion of theft, no matter how small, will suffice. In February, the Berlin labour court upheld Emmely’s dismissal.

So stealing garbage is "technically" a valid cause for firing but the firing was reversed in one court, while allegedly cashing in $1.83 in lost bottle refunds is grounds for firing that is upheld in multiple courts.

You better watch out for the (labor) police, when you're workin' down in Nutbush!


Tom said...

Employer/empolyee is a voluntary relationship between two competent parties. The government has no business trying to make rules about which of them can terminate the relationship or for what reason.

"Equal rights for all!"

Anonymous said...

Having experienced labour law in Europe, Tommy the Englishman suggests that the supermarket used this as an excuse to fire an employee that, in the US, would have been fired long ago for laziness, poor performance, etc. You can't fire people for those things in Europe.

Frank said...

About a decade ago there was a case arising from the firing of a Cologne area zookeeper for having an American style barbeque with some zoo animals--apparently Cameroonian sheep are quite tasty. I think the German court found the zookeeper couldn't be fired without 6 months of termination pay.