ÚS: Assessment of the limitation of compensation for damage caused by an employee

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court dealt with the relationship between the damage and the obligation to pay the damage by the employee. In doing so, it dealt with the situation of whether a botched organisational change at the workplace and the several invalid terminations given on the basis of that change should be regarded as one or several errors. This has an impact on the application of the limit on damages.

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In the case at hand, the complainant, after taking up a senior position in her employment, made an organisational change in the structure of the organisation which was intended to lead to its streamlining and cost savings. On the basis of that change, she then gave several dismissals to employees, some of whom defended themselves against that action. As a result of the unsuccessful legal proceedings, the organisation incurred costs, part of which, amounting to CZK 357 275, it claimed from the complainant.

The courts of the lower instance pointed out primarily that the damaging events were the individual terminations and not the initial organisational change. Each situation was therefore assessed individually, as was the subsequent compensation for damages.

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The Constitutional Court pointed out the deficiencies in the previous court proceedings, when on the one hand the statements were considered as separate damage events, but at the same time the complainant was found to be at fault in the incorrectly implemented organizational change, which was, from their point of view, purposeful and carelessly prepared.

According to the Constitutional Court, it is necessary to consistently prove how the misconduct and breach of duty actually occurred, thus distinguishing between two possible situations:

  • The culpability may consist of individual statements that may have been hypothetically written or made in violation of the law. The previous organisational change is then no longer assessed and the individual cases can indeed be dealt with separately.
  • If, on the other hand, the real substance of the misconduct was the organisational change which had taken place and the illegality of the statements was merely a consequence of that change, then the complainant’s misconduct must be regarded as a single act for which she should also bear a single consequence. In such a case, the limitation on damages laid down by the Labour Code as four and a half times the average wage would therefore apply to her.

However, the general courts erred in combining the two approaches, essentially finding one misconduct but linking several individual consequences and ‘penalties’ to it. As a result, the damages then exceeded the statutory limit.

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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