The dismissal of the legal adviser of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne because she took home an office chair was deemed illegal by a German Labor Court on Tuesday.
In the judge’s ruling, he said that taking the chair was a clear transgression by the employee, but not one that justified her dismissal. He deemed that the termination of her contract was unjust.
The employee had taken the liberty of seizing the office chair as the archdiocese asked staff to work from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The judge found that the necessary equipment had not been made available to staff when the archdiocese told its employees to work from home in most circumstances early in 2020.
Church argued chair was of ‘considerable value’
The attorney for the archdiocese had argued that the ergonomic office chair was an “object of considerable value” and that taking it was “illegal.” He also said that the employee called in sick soon after taking the object.
The plaintiff, who worked under Archbishop Rainer Maria Woelki, had been employed by the Archdiocese of Cologne since 2008.
Separate damages sought in connection with sex abuse scandal
A large part of her work in recent years had involved processing the legal complaints the archdiocese is facing pertaining to child sexual abuse. However, the labor court on Tuesday rejected a separate claim of hers for damages of at least €50,000.
She had argued that she was traumatized by this work and that she had not been offered sufficient support and training for the task by her employer. Her lawyer spoke of post-traumatic stress disorder linked to this work as the reason for her calling in sick.
The judge however found that given her position at the head of the legal team, she could have sought to arrange suitable counseling and support for legal staff herself.
The termination of her contract occurred on July 22, 2021.
What Tuesday’s ruling means for the future employment of the woman remains unclear. The verdict can be appealed.
jsi/msh (dpa, epd)