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Time exclusion limits

Keeping time exclusion limits by filing a lawsuit
(Federal Labor Court, decision dated March 16, 2016 – 4 AZR 421/15)

In case time exclusion limits apply to the employment relationship, their requirements are fulfilled when the relevant letter reaches the opposing party in time. It is not sufficient if only the court receives the letter at that time. Sec. 167 Civil Procedure Code (German ZPO) that stipulates that a deadline is kept with reception at court does not apply to time exclusion limits in collective bargaining agreements when claims are raised out of court.

In the case decided by the Federal Labor Court the plaintiff claimed a difference in remuneration for June 2013. He raised this claim for the first time with the lawsuit that the court received on December 18, 2013. The lawsuit was delivered to the employer only on January 07, 2014. Pursuant to Sec. 37 of the state public service collective bargaining agreement (German TV-L) claims arising from the employment relationship are forfeit if they are not raised in writing within a time exclusion limit of six months. Based on this stipulation the employee was obliged to address the employer with his claim until 2013/12/30.

The plaintiff argued that in order to keep the deadline set by the time exclusion limit it was sufficient to submit the lawsuit in time to the court on December 18, 2013. Sec. 167 Civil Procedure Code that states this at least for certain action regarding the lapse of statutory limitation periods should also apply to the time exclusion limits in collective bargaining agreements. The employer contested this and argued that only the actual date of receiving the letter with the assertion of the claim is decisive in case of out of court deadlines. The previous court instances ruled in favour of the plaintiff.

The employer’s appeal against that was not successful. The Federal Labor Court decided that Sec. 167 Civil Procedure Code does not apply to such time exclusion limits in collective bargaining agreements that can be fulfilled by merely raising the claim in writing. Therefore, delivering the statement of claim on January 07, 2014 was not in time and the motion had to be rejected. The decision by the Federal Labor Court is in line with its previous long-standing jurisprudence that the claimant is solely responsible for the delay that is caused by involving the courts when this involvement is not absolutely necessary.

Practical recommendations:
This decision is highly relevant for the company practice. Especially in employment contracts time exclusion limits in collective bargaining agreements and employment contracts are absolute standard. If deadlines can be kept by raising the claim in writing, then the claims should first be raised in writing toward the contracting partner keeping the deadline and only then or at the same time be raised in court. If the employer raises claims that are subject to time exclusion limits in collective bargaining agreements for the first time with the courts as detour and does not before that notify the employer about the claim, then the employee must accept all delivery delays that are connected to that and almost incalculable.

Attorney at Law
Author:
Attorney at Law
Tanja Radoux
radoux@buse.de

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