Responsibilities of the
Federal Labour Court

The Federal Labour Court – final instance in the labour court system – is one of five supreme federal courts. It reviews rulings of the lower courts only with regard to errors of law. The facts established by the higher labour courts are binding on the Federal Labour Court. Apart from very few exceptions, new facts to the case cannot be considered for the judgement.

The Federal Labour Court reviews the legal assessment of a case by the higher labour court. If the reasons for a ruling are found erroneous, the Federal Labour Court will then consider, if the finding is justified for other reasons. Should the facts of the case established by the higher labour court not be sufficient to enter a final judgment, the higher labour court ruling will be set aside and the case will then be remanded to the higher labour court.

Although the Federal Labour Court has to administer justice in individual cases, its principal task is to ensure uniformity of court decisions in the area of labour law. Furthermore it is responsible for the development of the law, particularly in those areas, left unregulated by legislation either unintentionally or intentionally (e.g. in the law relating to industrial action).

Contact

  • Street Address Bundesarbeitsgericht
    Hugo-Preuß-Platz 1
    99084 Erfurt
  • Postal Address 99113 Erfurt
  • Fax - Legal redress / Court office: +49 361 2636 -2000
  • Fax - Administration: +49 361 2636 -2008

Jurisdiction in Employment Matters

A legal action can be brought before a labour court if the matter disputed is covered by the Labour Court Act. In such cases, labour courts have exclusive jurisdiction.

There are two different kinds of labour court procedures, “Urteil” procedures and “Beschluss” procedures. On the one hand they differ in terms of the kind of decision they lead to (“Urteil” or “Beschluss”). On the other hand the procedures follow different rules.

In “Urteil” procedures like in civil procedures in general it is the responsibility of the parties to provide the court with the information and the evidence needed to make a decision (principle of party presentation).

In “Beschluss” procedures, it is generally the responsibility of the court to establish the facts of the case (principle of official investigation).

Labour court “Urteil” procedures are used in disputes between employees and employers arising from an existent employment relationship, its conclusion or its termination.

Especially the following areas are of practical significance:

  • protection against unfair dismissal, control of validity of fixed-term agreements, avoidance of termination agreements
  • claims to remuneration, bonus payments
  • vacation, vacation remuneration and allowance
  • granting and correction of letters of reference
  • granting of employment papers
  • removal of warnings
  • company pensions
  • covenants of non-competition: compensation for damage, compensation for restraint of competition

The “Beschluss” procedure is the procedure chosen for matters concerning the Works Constitution Act, the Senior Management Representatives Committee Act and different Workers’ Participation Acts. With regards to works constitution law these disputes often concern the existence and scope of works council participation rights and the employer’s responsibility to meet the expenses of works council activities.

System of Labour Courts

The labour jurisdiction is a separate jurisdiction, independent from civil jurisdiction. It is organized into three instances.

First-instance labour court cases and appeal higher labour court cases are heard by panels (“Kammern”) made up of one professional judge and two lay judges representing the employers’ and employees’ sides respectively.

At the Federal Labour Court (final instance) the panels (“Senate”) are made up of three professional judges – one of them the presiding judge – and two lay judges representing the employers’ and employees’ sides respectively.

Proceedings at Labour Courts

Judgement

In „Urteil“ procedures at labour courts of first instance (“Arbeitsgerichte”) there will be a conciliation hearing in front of the Presiding Judge of the panel without the lay judges just a few weeks after the lawsuit has been filed. It is the aim of the conciliation hearing to settle the case without a court hearing. The conciliation hearing is also used to speed up the procedure. If a settlement cannot be reached, a court hearing in front of the full panel will be prepared. Nevertheless, labour courts are bound to work towards an amicable arrangement at any time during the proceedings. If a judgment has to be passed, the voting right of the lay judges equals the voting right of the Presiding Judge.

Appeal

The unsuccessful party (both parties could be partially unsuccessful) can lodge an appeal (“Berufung”) against the labour court’s judgment with the relevant higher labour court (“Landesarbeitsgericht”), if the lower court has granted leave to appeal in its judgment. The appeal shall be allowed if the case is of fundamental legal importance. Additionally, appeal can be lodged if the value of the cause of appeal exceeds 600 Euro or if the claim relates to the existence, non-existence or termination of an employment relationship.

Procedure Appeal

A “Beschluss” procedure appeal (“Beschwerde”) against rulings made by a labour court of first instance is heard by the relevant higher labour court without further requirements.

At appeal, the case is reheard by the higher court both on points of law and the facts of the case, which means that – some reservations notwithstanding –  fresh facts can be submitted by the parties. Under certain conditions, appeals on points of law can be lodged against higher labour court judgments. These appeals, as well as judicial review applications in the case of higher labour court “Beschluss” procedures, are heard by the Federal Labour Court.

Appeal on points of law

An appeal on points of law (“Revision”) against the higher labour court’s judgment can be lodged, if the higher labour court has granted leave to appeal in its judgment. The appeal shall be allowed if the case is of fundamental legal importance, for instance with regard to its effects on the general public.

Leave to appeal on points of law

In the “Beschluss” procedure, leave to appeal on points of law („Rechtsbeschwerde“) must be granted for the same reasons. If the higher labour court does not grant leave to appeal on points of law, an appeal against the denial of leave to appeal can be lodged (“Nichtzulassungsbeschwerde”).

Representation at court

At labour courts of first instance 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.