Protecting employers’ interests in labor law?

It is one of the fundamental principles of labor law that the employee should afford special protection, given that they are the weaker party to the employment relationship. Of course, this fact is reflected in the case law of the labor courts, whose rulings usually favor the employee. Having said that, the recent decision-making practice of the Czech Supreme Court indicates a trend in the opposite direction, and not a few of its decisions actually serve to protect the legitimate interests of employers. In the present article, we present one such decision and show how it make benefit other employers in the future.

The relationships between a certain employee and his superiors had been strained for an extended period of time, and he was eventually dismissed for being obsolete. He fought his termination in court and prevailed, and thus returned to his position. The employer also paid him the back pay which it owed him on grounds of having lost the court dispute but chose not to pay him any bonus for the given year. More specifically, the employer stipulated that the troublesome employee’s bonus be in the amount of zero crowns based on the assessment of his work performance during the relevant calendar year.

The employee decided to challenge this (in his view) untrue assessment of his work performance, which he argued qualified as a ‘reference’ within the meaning of Sec. 314 of the Czech Labor Code, by invoking Sec. 315 of the Labor Code according to which an employee who disapproves with the contents of their employment certificate or their work reference may ask the court to oblige the employer to make amendments to the same, whereas the employee must submit its motion to the court within three months from the day on which they learned from the contents of the relevant document.

However, in the case at hand, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the employer, concluding that documents which contain an assessment of the work performance of an employee may only be considered a ‘reference’ within the meaning of Sec. 314 of the Labor Code if they are issued in connection with the termination of employment, at the request of the leaving employee, for the purpose of informing prospective future employers at which the leaving employee applies for a job about the previous employer’s evaluation of the employee, their qualification and skills, and other facts and circumstances relevant for a hiring decision. By contrast, an internal evaluation of employees, undertaking by the employer outside the context of a potential dismissal from work, for instance so as to reach a qualified decision on whether to grant a bonus (as in the adjudicated case), therefore cannot be considered a reference, and the employer cannot be forced to change its internal assessment of the employee in any way.

This ruling by the Supreme Court may be useful for employers because it clearly states that employers are entitled to evaluate the results of their staff’s work performance and their observance of work duties within the context of internal assessment procedures and systems, without having to fear that employees will call such evaluations into question by invoking the procedure set out in Sec. 315 of the Labor Code.

Source: Judgment 21 Cdo 3151/2017 by the Czech Supreme Court of 20 October 2017

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