Court: Worker gets €75k severance despite cocaine use, workplace accident

The court in The Hague granted a fired worker a transition allowance - previously known as severance pay - despite the fact that he used cocaine during or shortly before work and caused a workplace accident, Z24 reports. According to the court, the worker's actions were not "seriously culpable".

The introduction of the Work and Security Act in 2015 changed the Dutch dismissal law dramatically. An employee can now only be dismissed on certain grounds specified in this law. One of these grounds is that a worker can be dismissed if the employee acts culpably or neglects to act in such a way that the employer can not reasonably be expected to continue his or her contract.

In this case, the employer - a container terminal in Rotterdam - went to the cantonal court and argued that the worker acted seriously culpable. To demonstrate this he cited that the worker demonstrably used cocaine shortly before he had to work. He also put his colleagues at risk by causing an accident at work with a company car - he blacked out and fell asleep behind the wheel. A drug test showed that he used cocaine.

The cantonal judge found the worker guilty of "seriously culpable" actions and terminated his contract without granting a transition allowance. The worker's lawyer appealed.

The court in The Hague, like the cantonal court, found that the employee is guilty of culpable actions because of his drug use before or during work, while he knew this was not allowed. But the court does not agree that the worker is guilty of "seriously culpable" actions.

In its ruling The Hague court took into account that the worker was employed at the company since 1984 and functioned normally for the vast majority of his employment. There was a long period of frequent absenteeism, but these problems only started in 2013 and he was first called to account for his behavior in early 2015. The court also took into account that the worker had personal problems and showed signs of a burnout - it is therefore possible that the worker fell asleep behind the wheel because of a burnout, not of his cocaine use.

The Hague court therefore agrees with the cantonal court that the worker's contract could be terminated, but disagrees that he was not entitled to a transition allowance. Considering the man's age and period of employment, the court granted him a maximum transition allowance of 75 thousand euros.