international employment law firm alliance L&E Global

Germany: Employees are not entitled to a reference letter which is not folded and not stapled.

The employee was employed with the employer since 2010. The employer terminated the employment having effect on 30 November 2015. The employee’s lawsuit for unfair dismissal was settled before the Labor Court. Amongst others, the settlement provided for a claim to a reference letter with the grade “good”.

The employer issued the reference letter, but the employee did not agree with its content nor with its form. The employee argued before the Labor Court that he was entitled to an unfolded and non-stapled reference letter because otherwise the reference letter would express that the employer had not been satisfied with his job performance and would be of no use for any future application.

The State Labor Court of Rhineland-Palatinate ruled that the claim was unjustified. Though an employee is entitled to a reference letter pursuant to statutory law, the employer satisfies that claim if form and content of the reference letter comply with the statutory requirements. This was the case here. In particular, a stapled reference letter is no secret sign that the employer was not satisfied with the employee’s job performance.

The employee is not entitled to a reference letter which is not folded and not stapled. On the contrary the employer may fold the reference letter in order to put it in a standard-sized envelope. At any rate this shall apply if the original reference letter may be copied and the fold is not visible in the copy of the reference letter. In addition, the State Labor Court was of the opinion that the employee’s claim verged on the brink of abuse of rights as the employer offered the employee to pick up the reference letter at his registered office.