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Germany

Dismissal not justified, Germany's Federal Labor Court rules

Germany's Federal Labor Court has cancelled an earlier court ruling that upheld the firing of a cashier who pocketed coupons worth 1.30 euros. The woman, known in the media as "Emmely," can return to her supermarket job.

Barbara E.

Barbara E. has reason to smile

The Federal Labor Court (BAG) in the eastern German city of Erfurt ruled on Thursday that Emmely's pocketing of two coupons constituted a grave breach of duty but that it did not justify a dismissal.

Judge Burghard Kreft said that petty theft could justify an immediate dismissal -but it always depended on the individual case.

"A warning would have been sufficient in this case," he said.

Barbara E., whose full name has not been made public but who has become known in the media as "Emmely,"allegedly took two deposit coupons which had been lost by a customer in January 2008. Such coupons can be cashed in for returning empty bottles. The coupons she took had a total value of 1.30 euros ($1.57).

Her employer, the supermarket chain Kaiser's-Tengelmann, fired the cashier without notice just days after that incident. Kaiser's justified the dismissal of an employee who had worked for the chain for 31 years with a betrayal of trust.

But the federal court has now declared that trust won over more than 30 years of working for an employer can not be scuppered by a one-time minor incident of misconduct.

Backlash for supermarket chain

Following the verdict, Barbara E. told reporters in Erfurt that she was ready to return to Kaiser's. "I'd love to have my old workplace back," she said.

Thursday's ruling overrturns a Berlin labor court ruling, that said it was within the rights of the supermarket chain to fire her without notice.

It had been proven, the court said, that the cashier had taken and cashed in two deposit vouchers. In its ruling, the court said an "irreparable loss of confidence" had resulted through the cashier's behavior; the amount of money involved did not play a role.

Supporters, including trade unions, had organized "Solidarity with Emmely" protests all over Germany. They said she was victimized for union activities. In 2007, the cashier had participated in strikes against the supermarket's new owners for higher pay.

Author: Dagmar Breitenbach (AFP/AP/dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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