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European Labour Law Network

Ending of employment relationship due to breach of the employee’s obligations (according to the decision of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, dated 26 November 2015, file No. 21 Cdo 4596/2014, published in February 2016)

CZECH REPUBLIC - According to Section 52(g) of the Czech Labour Code, the employer may give notice of termination to an employee, if there are reasons on the part of the employee on the basis of which the employer may terminate the employment contract with immediate effect or for a serious breach of a duty arising out of the legal regulations applicable to the work performed by the employee. An employee may be given notice for a regular less serious breach of a duty arising out of the applicable legal regulations to the work performed by him/her, if the employee has been advised in writing of the possibility of being given notice in relation to the breach of the duty within the last six months.

As this ground for termination is relatively common in practice and is a source of court dispute, some case law is available. According to the case law of the Supreme Court, only courts are entitled to determine whether a breach of employee duties is “less serious”, “serious” or “in an especially gross manner”. The evaluation of the employer is not binding for the court.

The most recent case law of the Supreme Court, however, brought an interesting twist to the relevant case law. The Supreme Court dealt with a case in which the employer terminated the employment contract by a notice of termination given due to a regular less serious breach of the employee’s duties. The appellate court ruled in favour of the employer, stating that at least one of the breaches (the employee left the workplace during working hours) constituted a serious breach of obligations, which itself is sufficient for a notice of termination, even if the employee was not warned about the possibility of being given notice.

The Supreme Court, however, cancelled the decision of the appellate court, stating that although the courts are not bound by the qualification of the grounds for termination by the employer, they are also not completely free in their interpretation. By applying the principles of labour law, in particular the principle of protection of the employee as the weaker party, the Supreme Court stated that if the employer chooses to terminate the employment contract by notice and specifies that a breach of obligations by the employee was “less serious”, the courts cannot then qualify such a breach as “serious” and review the notice of termination as if it had been given for a serious breach of the employee’s duties.