The Supreme Court General Assembly on the Unification of Judgments recently concluded that penalty clauses agreed for the unjust termination of a fixed-term employment contract before its end date are valid and enforceable even if the contract is deemed to be of an indefinite nature due to a lack of objective conditions required by law to conclude fixed-term contracts.
The justification of court decisions is regarded as a key element of the right to a fair trial. In Turkey, this right is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Turkish Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure and Supreme Court precedents. However, in practice, judgments are sometimes made without providing any justification as to why the parties' claims and evidence were not taken into account.
Applying for mediation was recently made a prerequisite when filing a lawsuit concerning monetary claims by employees or employers arising out of employment contracts, collective labour agreements or reinstatement claims. Mandatory mediation was introduced to accelerate legal proceedings and lower the costs in employment disputes.
When the new Code of Civil Procedure was enacted in 2011, it introduced a new case type to Turkish litigation where plaintiffs file an action for receivables for an unquantified amount that is left to the courts to determine subject to dispute. This innovation in the litigation procedure raises questions regarding the instances in which plaintiffs should be deemed unable to calculate the size of their claims and what the courts should do when the receivables or damages are quantifiable.
Parties that failed to comply with an interim injunction or that violated an injunction previously faced one to six months' imprisonment. However, the Constitutional Court recently annulled this provision due to its lack of clear regulation and legal remedies. The changes will enter into force nine months after their publication in the Official Gazette and are final and binding on legislative, executive and judicial bodies, administrative authorities and real and legal entities.
The Supreme Court 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 court held that although the actions of the employee in question had not been serious enough to constitute just cause for termination and deprive him of his termination benefits, the employer could not be expected to continue the employment relationship.
Minimum wage, severance payments and administrative fines prescribed by the Labour Act are revised at the beginning of each calendar year. The minimum wage rate was recently increased to TL2,558.40 (gross) and the maximum severance payment was increased to TL6,017.60 (gross). In addition, the rate of administrative fines was increased by 23.73% compared with 2018.
Mandatory mediation for commercial disputes was recently introduced by the Law on Legal Procedures to Initiate Proceedings for Monetary Receivables arising out of Subscription Agreements. As a result, an application for mediation is a condition for bringing a legal action before the courts, and a case will be dismissed on procedural grounds if the claimant in a commercial action fails to fulfil this obligation.
The recently published Presidential Executive Decree 85 amended Decree 32 on the Protection of the Turkish Currency. In the field of employment law, it is unclear whether foreign nationals fall within the scope of the decree and how their salaries will be paid going forward. Since the decree uses the term 'Turkish residents', the general understanding is that it also applies to foreign employees, as they must have a residential address in Turkey in order to have a work permit.
The Supreme Court recently issued a number of decisions setting out how to calculate overtime pay and how employees can prove any overtime owed when required. Among other things, the decisions state that signed payslips can be used as material evidence. Further, where an employee has not signed a payslip and overtime payments have been made via bank transfer, the employee must prove that they worked the disputed overtime with documentary evidence.
Computers, computer programs and records used by suspects are among the most important evidence for public prosecutors who carry out external investigations relating to white collar crime. There is no definition of 'electronic evidence' in Turkey, but Article 134 of the Code of Criminal Procedure sets out the procedure for searching, copying and seizing computers, computer programs and records. An amendment to Article 134 concerning the collection of electronic evidence procedures was recently published.
Turkey has recently faced higher currency exchange rates, which has raised the question of whether this increase constitutes a change in circumstances that affects the fulfilment of contractual obligations. As there is no settled Supreme Court precedent regarding whether a fluctuation in currency exchange rates requires the adaptation of contracts, first-instance courts will need to examine the circumstances of each case.
In the absence of any clear guidance with regard to attorney-client privilege and white collar crime, the Competition Board's interpretation is a reference for future disputes and investigations. The board has held that companies subject to an investigation may refrain from disclosing their correspondence with their attorneys (and documents subject to this correspondence) provided that they explain who produced it and its purpose.
The Law amending the Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law and Other Laws recently came into force. The most significant amendments introduced to the Enforcement and Bankruptcy Law are the abrogation of the postponement of bankruptcy procedure and the adoption of a more efficient and functional structure for the composition with creditors procedure, which is a court-approved agreement between debtors and creditors.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning an employee's dismissal for borrowing money from their employer's customer. The Supreme Court reversed the first-instance labour court decision and ruled that the termination was lawful based on the fact that the employee had acted against the rule of integrity and honesty and damaged the employer's reputation.
The Labour Courts Act has introduced a number of changes and amended the appeal procedure for labour disputes. The legislature hopes to shorten the duration of actions which, by their nature, should be resolved as quickly as possible. Although it is still questionable whether these amendments will produce the anticipated returns in terms of reaching the desired duration for trial processes, they mark an important attempt to limit the two-phase appeal stage for certain cases.
Since 2012, individuals in Turkey have been able to make individual complaint applications to the Constitutional Court claiming that the state has violated their fundamental constitutional rights (or rights under the European Human Rights Convention) through its acts or omissions. One of the most common claims is that the state has violated an individual's right to a fair trial by failing to meet the reasonable time requirement and concluding criminal cases over long periods, in some cases more than 10 years.
Under Turkish law, there are two types of procedure in civil proceedings. Written procedure is the main and most common type, whereas the simple procedure, as the name suggests, is a simplified and expedited process. Following recent amendments, commercial cases worth less than TL100,000 are now subject to the simplified procedure in order to shorten the length of proceedings.
Preliminary injunctions in Turkey are regulated under the Code of Civil Procedure. A preliminary injunction can be requested from the competent court that has jurisdiction over a case prior to filing or the court before which a case is filed. Applicants must determine the grounds for making such a request in addition to the nature of the preliminary injunction being sought. They must also prove their claim to convince the court that the merits of the case are legitimate.
The Amendment Act of August 25 2016 introduced the automatic enrolment of employees in private pension plans. As a result, employees under the age of 45 must be enrolled in a private pension plan as part of a pension agreement between their employer and a pension company. As the majority of employees have withdrawn from the system, the Ministry of Finance recently prepared a draft omnibus law which introduced new provisions regarding automatic enrolment in the private pension plan system.