Train Ride at the Employer's Expense resulted in Summary Dismissal

In a judgment of 5 November 2014, the Danish Eastern High
Court found that a summary dismissal was justified, as the
employee - via his work mobile phone - had purchased private
train tickets at the employer's expense.

The case involved an employee whose employer had made a mobile phone, on which the employee paid multimedia tax, freely available to him. When the employer became aware that the employee, via his work mobile phone and at the employer's expense, had purchased private train tickets for DKK 1,282.40 during a period of 5 months, the employer summarily dismissed the employee.

The question was whether such misuse of a work phone could justify a summary dismissal.  

The employee admitted to having purchased the train tickets, but pleaded that it was legitimate to assume that the employer would accept this, as long as the annual expenses did not exceed DKK 3,000, which constituted the tax value of the work mobile phone. The employee stated that no one had informed him about what the phone could and could not be used for. Moreover, the employer's staff manual did not contain any guidance as to the private purposes for which the work mobile phone could be used, and no other internal instructions existed in this regard.

The employer stated that payment of the employee's private expenses at the employer's expense constituted a material breach of the employment relationship, for which reason a summary dismissal would be justified.

The High Court found that, in spite of the fact that no guidance on the use of the mobile phone was included in the staff manual, it ought to have been clear to the employee that his work mobile phone was a working tool, which could not be used for payment of purely private expenses without the employer's expressed acceptance.  

Furthermore, the High Court found that the employer had done nothing to give the employee reason to believe that the taxation of the phone would result in the employee being allowed to use the phone as he had done.   

Accordingly, contrary to the judgment of the district court, the High Court found that such a material breach of the employment relationship had been committed that a summary dismissal of the employee had been justified.

The judgment shows that misuse of a work mobile phone for payment of private expenses is a valid reason for a summary dismissal.

Latest news on Employment and Labour Law

Employment and Labour Law