1. Jurisdiction in Employment MattersA legal action can be brought before a Labour Court if the matter disputed is covered by the Labour Courts Act. In such cases, Labour Courts have exclusive jurisdiction.
There are two different kinds of Labour Court procedures, “Urteil” procedures and “Beschluss” procedures. They differ in terms of the kind of decision they lead to (“Urteil” or “Beschluss”). The main difference is, however, that in “Urteil” procedures, it is the responsibility of the parties to provide the court with the necessary information and evidence needed to make a decision, while in “Beschluss” procedures, it is largely the responsibility of the court to establish the facts of the case.
Labour Court “Urteil” procedures are used in disputes between employees and employers arising from the employment relationship, including those dealing with the existence or non-existence of a contract of employment, negotiations on entering an employment contract and its continuing effects, inadmissible action in the employment relationship and employment papers. This covers all possible claims and matters relating to an employment relationship, for example compensation and benefits, leave, employment references and other employment papers, compensation for loss, damage or time of competitive restriction, breach of prohibition of competition, company pensions, unfair dismissal, the validity of fixed-term contracts or the termination of contracts.
Labour Courts do not only resolve disputes between employees and employers over employment rights, but also similar disputes arising from contractual relationships of development aid workers, volunteers and disabled persons working in sheltered workshops.
Additionally, Labour Court “Urteil” procedures are used in disputes of rights between the parties to a collective agreement or between one party to a collective agreement and third parties arising from collective agreements, or in disputes relating to the existence or non-existence of collective agreements. Furthermore they are used in disputes arising from inadmissible action for the purposes of industrial action or in connection with questions of freedom of association (the right to organise) and the right of activity of an employer or employee representative.
The “Beschluss” procedure, on the other hand, is used for disputes arising from the Works Constitution Act (such as the existence and scope of works council participation rights and the employer’s responsibility to meet the expenses of works council activities). Equally, it is used for disputes arising from the Senior Management Representatives Committee Act. Furthermore, “Beschluss” procedures deal with matters arising from several co-determination acts such as the election of employee representatives to the supervisory board of a company, the capacity to conclude collective agreements and collective bargaining jurisdiction of trade unions and employers’ organisations.
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2. System of Labour CourtsJurisdiction in employment matters is independent from civil jurisdiction. It is a three-tier system consisting of:
- first-instance Labour Courts
- second-instance Land Labour Courts and
- the final-instance Federal Labour Court
First-instance labour court procedures are intended to ensure that the risk of costs to be incurred is kept low for both sides. In contrast to legal procedures in civil jurisdiction Labour Court fees are comparatively low and should not fall due until the end of the instance concerned. In the "Beschluss" procedure, no court fees are payable at all. In first-instance Labour Courts the parties may either appear on their own behalf, or be represented by a lawyer, a representative of an employer’s association or a trade union or any other authorised person. The unsuccessful party has to meet the costs (with the exception of costs incurred in “Beschluss” procedures). However, expenses incurred for income loss or representation in court are not reimbursed. There is the possibility to apply for legal aid.
The unsuccessful party (both parties could be partially unsuccessful) can lodge an appeal against the first-instance Labour Court’s judgment with the relevant Land Labour Court if the lower court has granted leave to appeal or if the value of the cause of appeal exceeds 600 Euro. Additionally, an appeal can be lodged for all claims relating to the existence, non-existence or termination of an employment relationship. In the case of a default judgment, not normally open to appeal, an appeal is possible if the failure to appear at a hearing can be justified with good reason. A “Beschluss” procedure appeal against orders made by a Labour Court of first instance is heard by the relevant Land Labour Court. “Beschluss” procedure appeals neither require leave to appeal nor a minimum value of the cause of appeal. In the Land Labour Courts, there must be representation by lawyers, or union and employer’s association representatives.
At appeal, the case is reheard by the higher court both on points of law and the facts of the case, which means that a fresh statement of the facts is generally admissible. The individual panels of Land Labour Courts, as with the first-instance Labour Courts, are made up of one judge and two lay members. Under certain conditions, appeals on points of law can be lodged against Land Labour Court judgments. These appeals, as well as judicial review applications in the case of Land Labour Court “Beschluss” procedures, are heard by the Federal Labour Court.
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3. Responsibilities of the Federal Labour Court and Remedies at LawThe Federal Labour Court, the court of last instance in the labour court system, is one of the five highest courts of justice in Germany. Panels at the Federal Labour Court are called Senates. They are made up of three judges (one chair and two other judges) and two lay members representing the employers' and employees' sides respectively. In the Federal Labour Court, the parties must be represented by lawyers admitted to practise in Germany.
An appeal on a point of law can be lodged against an appeal judgment by a Land Labour Court if the lower court has granted leave to appeal. By law, leave to appeal must be granted if a legal issue relevant to the decision of the case is of fundamental legal significance or if the judgment deviates from a judgment given by the Federal Court of Justice, the Joint Senate of the Supreme Federal Courts or the Federal Labour Court. If the Federal Labour Court has not yet issued a judgment on a specific legal issue, leave to appeal has to be granted where the Land Labour Court’s judgment deviates from a decision of another Senate of this Land Labour Court or from a decision of another Land Labour Court. Finally, leave to appeal must be granted if a procedural irregularity has occured or if the judgment is based on grounds on which the parties concerned have not had an opportunity to present their comments. In the “Beschluss” procedure, leave to appeal must be granted for the same reasons. Equally, judicial review applications can generally only be lodged if leave to appeal has been granted.
If the Land Labour Court does not grant leave to appeal, an “appeal against denial of leave to appeal” can be lodged. By means of an “appeal against denial of leave to appeal”, the applicant can claim that the requirements for granting leave to appeal are met. Should the Federal Labour Court allow this appeal, proceedings are continued as an appeal on a point of law or a judicial review application.
By way of exception, an appeal against a judgment of a first-instance Labour Court can be lodged directly to the Federal Labour Court using a “direct appeal on a point of law” or a “direct judicial review application”. This is only possible on application, requiring the parties to agree to it, and the case to be of fundamental importance to employment law. A “direct appeal on a point law” is only allowed for disputes between the parties to a collective agreement, or for disputes relating to the existence or non-existence of collective agreements. Furthermore, it is allowed for disputes concerning the interpretation of collective agreements whose scope goes beyond that of a specific Land Labour Court and for disputes arising from inadmissible action for the purposes of industrial action or in connection with questions of freedom of association and the right of activity of an employer or employee representative.
Appeals on a point of law do not enable the appeal judgment to be re-examined on questions of fact, only on questions of law. Apart from very few exceptions, new facts to the case cannot be considered for the judgement. Although the Federal Labour Court has to administer justice in specific cases, its main task is to promote the consistency of court decisions in the area of employment law and develop the law in areas left unregulated by legislation either intentionally (e.g. in the law relating to industrial action) or unintentionally.
The Federal Labour Court examines whether a Land Labour Court judgment failed to achieve a rule of law because the rule of law was either not applied, or not interpreted correctly, or the judgment entered was not correct for other reasons. Should the facts of the case established at the Land Labour Court hearing not be sufficient to enter a final judgment, the Land Labour Court judgment will be set aside and the case will be remitted to the Land Labour Court.
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4. Location of the Federal Labour CourtAccording to Section 40 of the Labour Courts Act, the Federal Labour Court is based in Erfurt. Before its relocation in 1999, the Federal Labour Court, together with the Federal Social Court, was based in Kassel.
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5. Structure of the Federal Labour Court and StaffJurisdiction is carried out by the Senates. They are supported by the registry, the library, the documentation department and the internal administration department.
President of the Federal Labour Court: Ingrid Schmidt
Vice President: Dr. Rudi Müller-Glöge
Press Officer: Waldemar Reinfelder
The Federal Labour Court presently employs 35 judges (including 10 presiding judges) and 118 members of staff supporting the judges. Additionally, on average 11 research associates are seconded to the Federal Labour Court.
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6. Useful Internet Resources
- German Government
- Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
- Deutscher Bundesrat
- German Parliament
- European Union
- The City of Erfurt
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