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06 March 2019
Supreme Court decision
The Supreme Court, as per its established precedent, recently found that the failure of employees to use appropriate language in their written workplace correspondence with superiors or colleagues constitutes a valid reason for termination.
The Supreme Court has adopted a balanced approach between the principle of termination as last resort and the employer's management rights in reinstatement actions filed by employees laid off by their employers due to workplace behaviour. The language used by employees in correspondence with colleagues and superiors is frequently discussed in Supreme Court decisions in this context.
In the 9th Civil Law Chamber's 13 January 2016 decision, the Supreme Court overruled a first-instance decision and decided that an employee's actions constituted a valid reason for the termination of their employment. The Supreme Court stated that the content of emails sent by the claimant to his colleague and assistant general manager had damaged the employment relationship between the parties and the harmony and productivity of the working environment, making it impossible for the employer to continue its employment relationship with the employee.
The employer terminated an employment contract based on just cause due to an employee's:
The claimant filed a reinstatement action, stating that the termination had been unjust.
The first-instance court ruled that:
The Supreme Court decided that although the employee's actions had not been serious enough to constitute just cause for termination and deprive the employee of his termination benefits, the employer could not be expected to continue the employment relationship given the wording, tone and language used in the emails that the employee had sent to his assistant general manager and colleague. As a result, the court found that the employer had been entitled to terminate the employment relationship pursuant to Article 18 of the Labour Act.
The Supreme Court based its decision on the following reasons:
The Supreme Court has once again drawn attention to the use of language in workplace communications. In the above decision, the court sought to protect workplace harmony and business continuity against personal conflict by allowing the employer to terminate the employment relationship based on a valid reason.
This approach has been reflected in a number of recent regional appellate court decisions. For example, on 30 March 2017 the Ankara Regional Appellate Court decided that an employer was entitled to terminate an employment relationship for a valid reason due to the accusatory language, wording and tone used by an employee in workplace correspondence, despite the fact that some of the objections that the employee had raised against her employer had been reasonable. The court emphasised that wording, tone and language are important when employees try to claim their employment rights. The appellate court's decision was unsurprisingly approved by the Supreme Court.
Although court decisions may differ depending on the facts of specific cases, it is clear that employees must use appropriate language, wording and tone in written workplace correspondence.
For further information on this topic please contact Beril Yayla Sapan, Asena Aytuğ Keser or Pınar Ece Bişkin at Gün + Partners by telephone (+90 212 354 00 00) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org). The Gün + Partners website can be accessed at www.gun.av.tr.
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