Liaison with the Armed Forces

Summary dismissal of employee who contacted a customer to tell about his upcoming departure was not justified.

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If an employee behaves disloyally during the notice period, he or she may be dismissed summarily in the same way as if the disloyal conduct had occurred during the employment relationship. In this case, the Eastern High Court had to decide whether an employee’s statements to a customer constituted a breach of the duty of loyalty and a material breach of the employment contract.

The employee – a sales manager at a travel management agency – was e.g. tasked with booking hotel accommodation for the Armed Forces. He had for several years had good relations with an employee at the Armed Forces who was in charge of placing orders for hotel accommodation. The sales manager did, however, find it difficult to meet the expected sales targets and therefore made an agreement with the employer regarding release from the duty to work and termination at 3 months’ notice.

During the notice period, the sales manager was in contact with the employee at the Armed Forces and they e.g. discussed buying a present for another employee at the Armed Forces who was retiring soon. In this connection, the sales manager said that the Armed Forces should no longer contact him regarding booking of hotel accommodation.

Subsequently, the sales manager’s employer contacted the employee at the Armed Forces to find out why the number of orders from the Armed Forces had decreased in the past months. A failure in communication may have occurred in this context. In any event, the employer understood the situation in such a way that the sales manager had allegedly told the Armed Forces that they should no longer contact the travel management agency for the purpose of booking hotel accommodation.

The employer regarded this as very disloyal conduct and the sales manager was therefore dismissed summarily.

The sales manager then sued the employer, claiming compensation for lack of notice.

The employer alleged that the sales manager had showed disloyal conduct to a material extent by contacting the employer’s customers while he was released from the duty to work without having basis for doing so and by advising the Armed Forces to end the collaboration with the travel management agency.

The High Court disagreed and found that the sales manager’s conduct and statement that the Armed Forces should no longer contact him personally for the purpose of booking hotel accommodation did not constitute a breach of the duty of loyalty. Accordingly, the summary dismissal was not justified.

The sales manager was awarded a compensation equivalent to his salary for the remaining part of the notice period.

Norrbom Vinding notes

  • that the case illustrates the difficult considerations that employers need to make when deciding between employment-related sanctions; and
  • that employers should be particularly careful if a certain conduct can only be proved through witness statements.

The content of the above is not, and should not be a substitute for legal advice.

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