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German Law/German labor law - disciplinary pay reduction without prior warning

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Question
QUESTION: I'm working a Mini-job for a company based on a fixed time contract for a period longer than 6 months.

Trying to satisfy their requests about doing non-contractual (additional duties) without an offered bonus, I have created some virtual items on my official Game Master game account without the permission/authorization from them, with the purpose of playing events with players and doing a work of a "GM" as proposed, but also without a notice that such action will result in a warning or sanction. I have no reason to believe there is any financial (or any other kind of) damaged caused to the company.

I did have the actual access to the system granted that gave me the ability to do so, with a permission to access it, but not a written permission to use it.

Upon investigation, they did not issue a verbal/written warning to not repeat this mistake in the future, but decided to directly reduce my previous month's payment by 25% and the current month's payment and all future payments for 50% (I was notified near the end of that month). Our contract specifies a fixed pay and does not include a section about the possibility of payment reductions, but does include a possibility about ending our contract with 3 weeks notice and just and equal payment during those days - which is not what they offered. They also did not offer a new contract or a contract change at this time.

What rights does the German labor law provide about this to the employees?

Thanks a bunch!

ANSWER: In my opinion, they could make deductions only if they raised a substantial counter claim against you for damages which they apparently have not done so far. If you ask me, they think that the amount of deduction is too low to file a law suit for you (given the fact that usually each Party has to bear ist own costs) and that they can get away with it easily. However, you could raise a Claim at the Labor Cour without the help of a lawyer, too.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I would like to first inform them that the payment reductions are not abiding by our work contract, and if they wish to make them in the future, they should prepare a new contract specifying the new terms (since they want all future months to be paid less than before), but that I would consider any retroactive payment deduction until the new contract is established as a violation of our work agreement from their side.

Of course, not in any desire to provoke, but simply as a polite way of saying that I do not agree with their previous deduction. Because, if I did agree, it might waive my rights in any future complaints about this matter (but hopefully still would not).

Would you consider that first approach to be valid? I'm a reasonable person just trying to find the optimal solution, but I'm afraid the other side does not feel the same way.

Thanks a lot, also for the answer to the initial question which was great and informative.

Answer
Why should you offer them an alteration of your contract?

Depending on the seriousness of your activities (I assume them a to be a breach of contract) the employer could either declare a termination without notice within two weeks after he discovered the breach or a warning in order to prepare an ordinary termination in case of recurrence.

However, there is no room for arbitrary deductions on the side of the employer. If he wants to reach this aim he has to terminate the current contract observing any rules for termination and place an offer for a contract under new payment terms (Änderungskündigung). The new conditions would only become valid if the employee accepts the termination and the new offer or if a labour court declares the termination as valid in the event that the employee takes legal Action´within three weeks after receiving the termination note.  

By the way, the legal period for ordinary terminations is four weeks by the 15th or the end of the month, not three. So there is no room to be polite to your employer if you ask me.  

German Law

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Henning Haarhaus

Expertise

I can answer questions in English, German and French. Practice in inheritance law, tax, labour and contract law for private clients. Services also rendered in the fields of business & commercial law; e.g. business organizations, contracts, debt collections, leasing law. Representing clients all over Germany. NO CONSULTANCY ON FAMILY AND IMMIGRATION LAW.

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Working since 1999 in the forenamed fields. Henning Haarhaus` experience includes services in the legal department of Roedl & partner, the biggest tax consultancy firm of German origin. Appointed Bar Certified Tax Law Practioner in 2007.

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Bar Association of Berlin, KIWANIS

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German licensed lawyer and bar certified tax specialist

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