A month after he became district manager at the technical wholesaler Nögel, the employee called in sick with migraine on a Wednesday last summer. The company repeatedly tried to contact him by phone, but was only successful on Friday. The man said he would return to work on Monday.
Girlfriend passed away
However, the employee did not resume work that Monday. Once again, the company was unable to contact the district manager by telephone. The man did send an e-mail, in which he said that a friend had suddenly died of heart failure the night before, and that he was taking care of family and friends.
He did not keep his promise to call that day. A day later, he sent an email, again attributing his absence to the sudden death.
When the employee was again unreachable by telephone, his supervisor visited the man’s home. There, however, he only found his father, who told him that his son was not at home. Even after that visit, the employee did not hear anything.
On Wednesday, the technical wholesaler fired the district manager on the spot due to unauthorized absence, lack of communication, and a breach of trust.
A day later, the man objected to the dismissal, and said he could start again on Monday. When the employer upheld the dismissal, the man went to court.
‘Overcome by emotions’
Before the subdistrict court, the employee explained the death of the girlfriend – whom he had known since childhood. “Overcome by emotions full of disbelief at the sudden death of his girlfriend, he did not immediately telephone his employer that he could not come to work because of a death,” the man’s lawyer said in his petition.
During the hearing, the employee said he was “completely upset” and “devastated” by the tragic news. He also said that he had slept with the girlfriend’s partner at the time, to take care of the family and arrange things.
Strike through resignation
That defense paid off, because last December the subdistrict court ruled out the dismissal. The company should have given the man the opportunity to respond to the accusations.
The judge also stated that the man was entitled to continued payment of wages. The employee then had the company’s bank accounts seized.
However, the employer’s lawyer continued to investigate. In doing so, he discovered that the person whom the employee had named before the subdistrict court had not died at all. The company then appealed.
For the court in Leeuwarden, the district manager then came up with another person with the same first name, who turned out to have died that weekend. The man mistakenly switched their names.
But during the appeal it was nevertheless established that the district manager had lied about the reason for his absence. A statement from the widower of the deceased woman revealed that at the time the employee had not contacted the family at all, had not stayed with them, and had not even attended the funeral.
Dismissal is justified
During the appeal, the employee was also unable to say at what age his ‘best friend’ had died.
Because the district manager lied to the subdistrict court about the reason for his absence, the court now rules that he was rightly dismissed at the time. He must also repay the wrongly paid salary.
The employer’s lawyer, Hendrik Geffroy, is satisfied with the court’s ruling. “It is a remarkable case. From the beginning we suspected that something was not right. After some investigative work, it turned out that the woman initially mentioned was very much alive. And later it turned out that the employee of the lady who had died, the family hadn’t caught at all.”
The employee’s lawyer, Sharon Haimé, says she cannot comment on the ruling yet because she has yet to discuss it with her client.