It is common knowledge that an employee is insured whilst travelling to and from work. An employment tribunal in Cologne has now extended this concept and ruled that employees who intentionally begin fights whilst on the way home from work faces dismissal without notice.

Schlagende Arbeitnehmer müssen mit fristloser Kündigung rechnen©-ferkelraggae-Fotolia

Workplace violence

The ruling came in a case in which a production assistant started a fight with a colleague directly in front of the employer’s premises (06.11.2012, Az. 11 Sa 412/12). In defending his actions the employee asserted he had acted in self-defence.

However, other colleagues gave evidence that the employee had made it known before the end of his shift that he wanted to attack his colleague. They also noted that another colleague had unsuccessfully attempted to keep the victim at work for longer so that a confrontation could be avoided.

Despite the fact that the employee was not technically at work when he attacked the victim, the decisive aspect for the employment tribunal was that the employee had intentionally sought out physical confrontation.

In rejecting the employee’s appeal against being dismissed, the court reasoned that an employer has an interest in ensuring that the company atmosphere is amicable and is not prejudiced by disputes or workplace violence. This is particularly the case when two opponents are employees and there is a risk of both being absent from the work.

Dismissal without notice

The tribunal explained that under German employment law and employee has a duty to observe the rights and interests of fellow employees. Fighting with colleagues, even if it is outside the workplace, represents a breach of this duty which entitles an employer to dismiss an employee without notice.

The tribunal stressed that an employer is not required to instigate disciplinary proceedings where a violent assault takes place. It is in an employer’s interest to ensure that physical altercations are prevented and, when they do occur, are dealt with swiftly.