Constitutional Court: putative employee deserves protection

12. 9. 2017

The Constitutional court has recently heard a case of for damages claim of a job applicant (ruling I. US 615/17). The applicant visited the location of the potential employer on a basis of a job offer made public by an Employment Centre and was given a dry-run task without having previously been awarded an employment contract or safety at work instructions. Should the applicant perform the task satisfactorily, they would be offered a contract; otherwise they would be remunerated in accordance with an agreement to complete a job concluded after completion of the task. Unfortunately, things took rather a horrible turn when the applicant amputated four fingers on their right hand resulting in permanent injury.

The claim for the recompense for the damage and lost wages were enforced to no avail as the courts particularly reasoned that no labor-law relation had been established. After unsuccessful appeals, the applicant turned to the Constitutional Court, which ruled that their right to fair procedure had been violated and canceled all previous rulings.

Firstly, the argument of the absence of a labor-law relation (and even a factual one, i.e. performing a task without a contract) was found illegitimate. However, even if the argument had been valid, the general courts disregarded the fact that the applicant was in the position of the weaker party in relation to the employer, which is even more significant due to the absence of the applicant’s status of an employee and who, hence, did not come under the protection of the Labor Code. The general courts, then, were supposed to judge the situation from the perspective of the general responsibility as addressed by the Civil Code and to factor in the applicant’s being the weaker party. Apart from the existence of labor-law relation being interpreted rather broadly, the employers should bear in their minds that should an existence of such a relation on the applicant’s (or another person’s) side be doubtful, they are protected by their status of the weaker side and, as such, may claim their right for a higher protection standard.

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