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Summary dismissal was unjustified due to procedural errors

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Legal news
calendar 13 March 2022
globus Norway

Summary dismissals are rarely seen in practice because strict requirements apply to safeguard employees from the significant impact the sanction has. However, in a recent case an employee was summarily dismissed for falsifying documents. Although there were sufficient grounds to summarily dismissal the employee, the company’s failure to follow the right procedure meant it was ultimately unjustified.

After having received two costly complaints from customers due to faults and delays in different orders, a company specialized in kitchens invited the responsible sales associate to a discussion meeting.

Shortly after the discussion meeting, the employee informed the company of another faulty delivery which she was the responsible sales associate for. However, she blamed the installment company for the incorrect measurements of the kitchen unit. She referred to the order form she had drafted, where the correct measurements were listed, and encouraged the company to hold the installment company liable for the fault.

However, the company became aware that the order form had been edited that same day. It also discovered that the employee’s user profile was the only one that had ever edited the order. Moreover, it became clear that the order form had contained the faulty measurements before the employee had edited it – to instead include the right measurements - and lied about it.

Following the investigation, the employee was handed a summary dismissal which referred to her having falsified the most recent order form as well as her mistakes in the previous two cases she had been responsible for. During later negotiations, the employee denied falsifying the order form despite the company’s evidence.

A second discussion meeting should have been held

The Norwegian Court of Appeal concluded that the company had not satisfied the requirements to summarily dismiss the employee. This was partly because the employee had not been invited to a new discussion meeting and given a chance to tell her side of the story. It was also emphasized that the company had not considered a suspension or a removal of the employee’s access to the computer system before a final decision on summary dismissal was made.

The court found that the employee had falsified the order form. Although this was sufficient grounds for a summary dismissal, such a serious sanction should only be used where there is an immediate need. For example, a suspension of the employee would have covered the immediate need of the company and give time for the employee to give her side of the story before a summary dismissal was decided on. This would also have allowed the company to gather conclusive evidence before a final decision was made.

As the company had not claimed termination on a secondary basis before the court - if the requirements for a summary dismissal were not met - the employee was entitled to compensation.

IUNO’s opinion

This is a good example of the importance of proper case handling, both before a summary dismissal is given and when the dispute has reached the courts. Where there is a gross breach of trust or potentially criminal actions performed by an employee, emotions can run high and lead to quick decisions. Especially in such cases, it is important that the company keeps cool and makes sure to follow the necessary steps.

IUNO recommends that companies consider both whether the requirements are met and what the options are if they are not met in connection with a summary dismissal. Although it follows from the nature of a summary dismissal that it is given shortly after the breach of contract has been performed, there is time to seek both legal advice and ensure proper case handling.

[The Norwegian Court of Appeal’s judgement LA-2021-137694 of 14 February 2022]

After having received two costly complaints from customers due to faults and delays in different orders, a company specialized in kitchens invited the responsible sales associate to a discussion meeting.

Shortly after the discussion meeting, the employee informed the company of another faulty delivery which she was the responsible sales associate for. However, she blamed the installment company for the incorrect measurements of the kitchen unit. She referred to the order form she had drafted, where the correct measurements were listed, and encouraged the company to hold the installment company liable for the fault.

However, the company became aware that the order form had been edited that same day. It also discovered that the employee’s user profile was the only one that had ever edited the order. Moreover, it became clear that the order form had contained the faulty measurements before the employee had edited it – to instead include the right measurements - and lied about it.

Following the investigation, the employee was handed a summary dismissal which referred to her having falsified the most recent order form as well as her mistakes in the previous two cases she had been responsible for. During later negotiations, the employee denied falsifying the order form despite the company’s evidence.

A second discussion meeting should have been held

The Norwegian Court of Appeal concluded that the company had not satisfied the requirements to summarily dismiss the employee. This was partly because the employee had not been invited to a new discussion meeting and given a chance to tell her side of the story. It was also emphasized that the company had not considered a suspension or a removal of the employee’s access to the computer system before a final decision on summary dismissal was made.

The court found that the employee had falsified the order form. Although this was sufficient grounds for a summary dismissal, such a serious sanction should only be used where there is an immediate need. For example, a suspension of the employee would have covered the immediate need of the company and give time for the employee to give her side of the story before a summary dismissal was decided on. This would also have allowed the company to gather conclusive evidence before a final decision was made.

As the company had not claimed termination on a secondary basis before the court - if the requirements for a summary dismissal were not met - the employee was entitled to compensation.

IUNO’s opinion

This is a good example of the importance of proper case handling, both before a summary dismissal is given and when the dispute has reached the courts. Where there is a gross breach of trust or potentially criminal actions performed by an employee, emotions can run high and lead to quick decisions. Especially in such cases, it is important that the company keeps cool and makes sure to follow the necessary steps.

IUNO recommends that companies consider both whether the requirements are met and what the options are if they are not met in connection with a summary dismissal. Although it follows from the nature of a summary dismissal that it is given shortly after the breach of contract has been performed, there is time to seek both legal advice and ensure proper case handling.

[The Norwegian Court of Appeal’s judgement LA-2021-137694 of 14 February 2022]

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Aurora Braut Bache

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