28 May 2020
The law requires an urgent reason for summary dismissal (being fired on the spot).
The dismissal must be given “without delay”, which means that the employer must dismiss the employee immediately if possible, but in any case shortly after discovering the culpable act. The employer is also obliged to inform the employee immediately of the reason for their dismissal. In addition, the employee must have been able to have their say prior to the dismissal, and the personal circumstances of the employee must have been taken into account.
In a recent case, an employer wrote an extensive letter of dismissal to an employee whom they fired on the spot. The employer indicated that they reserved the right to adjust, supplement or change the urgent reason for the summary dismissal.
The employee in question had been employed since 2000, most recently in the position of branch manager. In a personal conversation with their employer, the employee presented the employer with a detailed note about the functioning of and their relationship with the employees whom they supervised. A day later, the employer informed the employee that the team no longer trusted the employee. The employer indicated that they would carry out a further investigation and asked the employee to take time off work. A few weeks later, the employee was summarily dismissed (fired on the spot).
The employer sent the employee a detailed letter of dismissal, which included a large number of reasons for the summary dismissal. Among other things, the employee was accused of making too many private calls during working hours, regularly not wearing corporate clothing, having made a sexual remark and of having “given the middle finger” to another employee. To these accusations, the employer added that they reserved the right to add, remove or change the reasons stated in the letter.
The judge designated this act of the employer as a license to adjust or supplement the urgent reason for the summary dismissal. According to the judge, this was contrary to the premise that an urgent reason must be described as precisely as possible. After all, an employee must know why they will be asked to leave immediately, and such a reservation does not fit with that.
In addition, the allegations made against the employee had not been established and they did not (in combination or separately) constitute an urgent reason for dismissal within the meaning of the law. The summary dismissal was therefore unjustified. The employer was ordered to admit the employee to work and to continue paying the employee’s wages.
The above ruling confirms once again that summary dismissal will not be upheld unless there is an urgent reason.
Urgent reasons are actions, characteristics or behaviours of the employee, because of which the employer can no longer be expected to continue the employment relationship.
Firing someone on the spot therefore remains an extreme measure. It is important for employers to realise that summary dismissal can only be used if they cannot await a ‘normal’ dismissal procedure.
It is therefore advisable not to deal lightly with this. If there is an urgent reason that justifies summary dismissal, and the personal circumstances of the employee do not prevent such dismissal, it is advisable to describe the reason in the dismissal letter as precisely as possible. This prevents the employee from subsequently arguing that the reason for the instant dismissal was not clear to them.
In addition: do not delay giving the dismissal and do not make reservations as the employer did in this case.
District Court of Limburg March 31, 2020, ECLI (abbreviated): 2708.
This article was originally published on Rendement
Learn more about summary dismissal and losing your job in the Netherlands.
If you have a question about summary dismissal or you have been fired on the spot, please contact me. I’ll be glad to assist you.
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