Instant dismissal in The Netherlands
In a dismissal case handled by labour lawyer Mr Paul Snijders in Amsterdam, an 18-year-old cashier at a supermarket was summarily dismissed because, in her capacity as cashier, she had charged a customer for too few bake-off sandwiches and had signed a statement of guilt to that effect. However, the Subdistrict Court in Utrecht ruled that Lidl’s summary dismissal was not justified, and a request by the supermarket to dissolve the employment contract was also rejected.
Cashier rightly dismissed for deliberately undercharging?
What was going on? The employee, 18 years old, worked in a supermarket as a helper/cashier. While sitting behind the store’s cash register, she undercharged for bake-off sandwiches to a customer she vaguely knew. She eventually acknowledged in writing in a statement that she deliberately did not charge all of the rolls at the cash register. For this reason, she was summarily fired.
Amsterdam lawyer protests instant dismissal
Mr. Paul Snijders as the employee’s lawyer protested the dismissal by letter and indicated that she had been put under severe pressure to ‘confess’. Employee indicated that she only ‘confessed’ in a guilty plea to get rid of it and so that her parents would not be notified and that there had been a mistake.
The supermarket found that the employee had deliberately paid for too few sandwiches at the checkout, also because the employee later admitted this in a signed statement. Lawyer Mr Snijders brought proceedings on behalf of the cashier for dismissal before the Subdistrict Court in Utrecht, where he requested, among other things, continued payment of salary and reinstatement in the position of cashier.
However, the sub-district court was unable to establish from the footage that the supermarket employee had deliberately understated the number of sandwiches.
Written confession of guilt or guilty plea to theft not valid
With regard to the employee’s written statement, in which she declared herself guilty of theft and embezzlement, the Subdistrict Court ruled that it was plausible that the employee had not been able to sufficiently foresee the consequences of the statement and that she felt pressured. According to the court, a good employer should prepare a young and inexperienced employee for such an important interview and insist that she is assisted by a parent or other confidant.
If this is not possible, the written statement must be taken home so that the employee can read it again at leisure. As this did not happen, the supermarket was not entitled to assume that the employee really wanted to state what she had written/signed.
No zero-tolerance policy for supermarket in case of theft or embezzlement at the cash register
Furthermore, according to the court, it did not appear that the supermarket had a ‘zero tolerance policy’. The personnel manual does not indicate such a policy because the sanction apparently depends on the severity and gravity of the offense. According to the court, the error made by the employee at the checkout in this case was not so serious that the heaviest sanction – instant dismissal – was justified.
No culpable action in case of underpayment at the cash register
The Subdistrict Court also ruled that although there had been careless (culpable) conduct by the employee, it was not such that the employment contract had to be terminated. The existence of a disturbed working relationship had not been made sufficiently plausible either. The request for dissolution was rejected and the employer had to admit the employee back to work on pain of a penalty payment. The supermarket has acquiesced in this ruling.
This judgment is not an isolated case. Previously, we published a similar judgment about a cashier’s guilty plea that did not stand up in court.
If you believe you have been unfairly laid off, you should contact WS Lawyers in Amsterdam.
Help from a specialized Dutch employment lawyer in case of instant dismissal
Do you have questions about dismissal in The Netherlands and would you like the assistance of a specialized dismissal lawyer in your dismissal case? Call WS Advocaten in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, for legal advice and help with instant dismissal.