Germany: Crimes Committed by a Works Council Chairperson Do Not Necessarily Justify Refusal of Access to Company Premises
After it was discovered that the chairperson of the works council had forged certificates by using the employer’s stamp to confirm receipt of works council documents, the employer reported him to the police, denied him access to the company premises, and applied to the court for his removal from office. The works council, on the other hand, filed to court for the employer to be obliged to grant access to the company premises.
The local court granted the works council’s motion and ordered the employer to grant the works council chairperson access to the premises. This ruling was recently confirmed by the Regional Court of Hesse. It found that the denial of access constituted an obstruction of the council’s work. The Works Council Constitution Act (BetrVG) stipulates that members of the works council must not be obstructed in the performance of their duties.
In the event of a serious violation of duties committed by a works council member, the employer must still file for an interim injunction against the exercise of works council functions first. The criminal law dimension is not of interest for such an application. Instead, it depends on the question of whether the trustful relationship between the parties is irreversibly damaged. However, the actions of the works council chairperson were not considered a violation that would meet this threshold. The court, therefore, found that it was reasonable to wait for the impeachment proceedings to be concluded.
- This ruling shows once more how strongly the position of the works council and its members is protected under German law. Even in the case of a criminal offence, the employer can be obligated to keep granting access to company premises for the purpose of works council work, until a court has ruled on the impeachment of the works council member in question. Not adhering to this can be considered an obstruction of the works council’s work.
- In the meantime, employers can file for an interim injunction against the exercise of works council functions, but this will only be granted in exceptional cases.