Success of Gostynski & Partners in an interesting employment law case against former employees
June 11, 2021
The case concerned dispute between a company and its two former employees suing their employer for wrongful termination of the employment contract and claiming establishing the existence of an employment relationship as well as compensation for unjustified and unlawful termination of their employment.
The Employer decided to terminate the contract with two employees in managerial positions after finding out about serious of misconducts and violations committed by the employees. The employees managed one of the shops owned by our client and on several occasions either sold or order the shop’s staff to sell expired meat products. They also used to remove or deliberately damage labels with expiry date on the products to hide the meat was not good for sale anymore. The list of all the violations and misconducts is quite extensive. Despite having serious grounds for termination with immediate effect, the company decided to offer employees to terminate the contract by mutual settlement.
Initially, the employees agreed to that and signed the settlements. However, a few days later, they had a change of heart and decided to withdraw from the declaration of intent they made (signing the settlements). As a result employees sued the company for wrongful termination claiming that they signed the settlement under influence of illegal threat and error.
Additionally, during the court proceedings employees also claimed that they actually signed the settlement thinking that they only confirm receipt of the document and they will be still entitled to notice period and remuneration. Moreover, they claimed there were no grounds for termination as they were exemplary employees who after years of commitment were fired without legitimate reason.
The company however, thoroughly secured the evidence of numerous and continues violations committed by the two employees. Moreover, in conversation during which the employees signed the settlement to terminate employment apart from employer and two employees – managers from the company were present. The additional participants witnessed the whole situation and afterwards were called to testify at the trial, where they described the course of the conversation and denied alleged allegations of the employees.
The court of I instance after meticulous evidentiary process including hearing of numerous witnesses from both sides and getting familiar with significant amount of documents ruled in favour of the defendant. The court stated that the versions presented by the employees were not consistent and they simultaneously claimed different things i.a. that they either were under influence of illegal threat or error or actually they signed only for the receipt of documents. The court of I instance also stated that there can be no situation that employees sign settlements and afterwards they have a change of heart and decide to withdraw their valid and binding declaration of intent simply because it is more convenient for them.
Moreover, the court stated that the evidence of the employees’ violations was overwhelming. Even though the employees tried to deny it and argued with every piece of evidence the facts were undeniable.
The Appellate court shared the view of the court of I Instance and dismissed the appeal providing the same justifications and confirming that the process has been conducted thoroughly and thus the initial ruling upheld.
In the reality of the Polish employment litigation courts very often automatically treat employees favourably as they are considered a weaker party in the proceedings against their former employers. In this case however, the court after careful consideration stated that the company terminating employment complied with all regulations and had every right to decide about its HR matters and to end the employment especially, the employees were in serious breach.