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Cassation appeal accepted by the Supreme Court

22.11.2019

The Supreme Court has accepted for consideration a cassation appeal filed by the Law Firm on behalf of the Client - a former employee of the defendant company, employed as the Director General - which is based on an important legal issue raised in the case.  

The parties to the dispute were bound by a fixed-term contract of employment. They provided for the possibility of its early termination with a notice period, subject to certain conditions. The employer made use of this right. The Client appealed against the notice of termination, demanding, among other things, payment of compensation under the provisions of the Labour Code and compensation in the form of the difference between the remuneration which he would have received if the contract had been performed by the parties until the expiry of its term and the compensation which he could claim under the provisions of the Labour Code.

The court of first instance shared the Client's view that the termination of the contract of employment in the light of the contractual prerequisites for termination specified by the parties was unjustified, as the employer did not prove their fulfillment, but dismissed the action with regard to the claim based on the Civil Code. As a result of accepting the Client's appeal, the Court of second instance overturned the judgment in the said part. Re-examining the case, the Court of First Instance dismissed the action, indicating, inter alia, that the existing case law does not extend the effects of the Constitutional Tribunal's decision in case ref. no. SK 18/05 to the facts related to the termination of a contract of employment, and not its termination without notice. The court of second instance decided that the appeal lodged on behalf of the Client has no merit. It rejected the argumentation concerning the admissibility of the employee pursuing additional claims pursuant to the regulations of the Civil Code based on contractual liability, citing the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court.

On the basis of the facts of the case, the attorney representing the Client, Mr Przemysław Przerywacz, brought a cassation appeal against the judgment of the Court of Second Instance, basing it on the following legal issue, crucial from the point of view of resolving the case:

  • in a situation where the parties to the employment relationship are bound by a fixed-term contract of employment in which they have limited the possibility of its termination to the occurrence of specific reasons, are the employee's claims related to the termination of the contract made in breach of that provision, in a situation where the parties have not specified the consequences of such a breach, limited only to compensation pursuant to Article 50(3) of the Labour Code in conjunction with Article 50(4) of the Labour Code, i.e. capped at the amount of remuneration for three months, or can the employee also claim compensation according to general terms to the extent exceeding them, based on Article 471 of the Civil Code in conjunction with Article 300 of the Labour Code ?

In the complainant's view, the above issue has not been resolved by the case-law, but its resolution may contribute to the development of law. Due to the instrumental approach of the courts to the handling of identical cases and the automatic acceptance of the employer's tort liability for the employee's claims as the only proper basis for claims, referring to the Supreme Court's line of jurisprudence concerning an entirely different issue - termination of a contract of employment without observing the notice period in violation of the provisions on termination of contracts of employment in this mode - employees, including the Client, cannot effectively assert their rights.

It is difficult to predict the decision the Supreme Court is likely to make in the above mentioned case, however, if it decides to provide an answer to the above legal issue, the practical consequences of the judgment may turn out to be far-reaching and significant from the point of view of persons employed on the basis of time-limited contracts of employment, especially at key positions in economic entities operating in the market.

 

 

 

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