On the 19th of October 2017, the cantonal court had to decide whether or not to terminate an employment contract on the legal ground of “imputable acts” (article 7:669 lid 3 sub e of the Dutch Civil Code). The employee had worked at the vegetable production company for 19 years, lately as a manager. After taking home some salads without the employer’s permission, which salads were meant to be destroyed for health and safety reasons, the employer requested the cantonal court for termination of the employment contract.
The court pointed out that the employee was aware of the employer’s strict policy of taking home products without permission. The policy had been explicitly laid down in the personnel manual. The manager was familiar with the policy and, in his role as manager, he had also given warnings to his subordinates for not complying with the policy. The cantonal courts also considered that the employee, as one of the company’s manager, had to serve as an example to the other employees.
Taking in consideration the facts and circumstances of the case, the cantonal court ruled the taking home of the products to be a gross violation of the employer’s policy, which justified a termination of the employment contract.
However, the courts the court did not qualify the employee’s behavior as “seriously culpable”, as a result of which the employee retained his right to the statutory severance payment (“transition allowance”) in the amount of EUR 18,975 gross.
The ruling shows the importance of having proper personnel manual with clear guidelines for employees. Whether or not the company has a sound personnel manual in place, can make the difference in being able to sanction the employee for breaches of the company’s policies.