Termination, registered letters and delivery: an ongoing labor law issue.

 The proof of delivery plays a role when issuing notice of termination via registered mail.

Termination, registered letters and delivery: an ongoing labor law issue.

The time at which the notice of termination was received frequently causes labor law disputes. The time of receipt determines aspects such as exactly when the employment relationship ends and, therefore, also how much the employer is required to pay the ex-employee.

The case before the court

The case before the Nuremberg Regional Labor Court (LAG) (decision dated June 15, 2023, Ref: 5 Sa 1/23) concerned the dismissal of a dentist. She had been dismissed with notice and the employment contract stipulated a quarterly notice period to the end of the quarter.

The dispute did not revolve around the validity of the termination itself. Rather, the dentist wanted clarification as to when the termination had ended the employment relationship. The notice of termination was dated September 28, 2021 and was delivered by registered letter.

The employer assumed that the termination was effective at the end of the year, as the proof of delivery of the registered letter was dated September 30, 2021.

However, the dentist claimed that the termination did not take effect until the end of March 2022 and that she had not received the notice of termination until October. Her interest in the matter was a difference of approximately 30,000 euros gross salary for one quarter. The plaintiff would have been owed subsequent payment of this amount.

Therefore, the crux of the issue was whether the notice of termination was delivered before or after October 1, 2021.

Proof of the prima facie case

The court ruled that the employment relationship had ended on December 31, 2021. The court was convinced by the “prima facie evidence” indicating that the notice of termination was received on September 30, 2021.

The prima facie evidence would indicate receipt by the recipient if

  • the notice of termination was sent by registered mail and
  • the employer as the sender could also present the proof of delivery with the signature of the deliverer.

Both conditions were true in this specific case and the proof of delivery was dated September 30, 2021.

The court also pointed out that the prima facie evidence also suggested that the notice of termination was delivered as a registered letter on September 30, 2021 at the “usual time of delivery”. This is because a Deutsche Post AG employee usually delivers the mail during normal working hours.

Not reinventing the wheel

Consequently, the Nuremberg State Labor Court has not reinvented the wheel when addressing this issue. Rather, it continues the case law of other state labor courts (most recently Baden-Württemberg State Labor Court, decision dated July 28, 2021, Ref: 4 Sa 68/20; Schleswig-Holstein State Labor Court, decision dated January 18, 2022 – 1 Sa 159/21).

As such, notice of termination sent via Deutsche Post AG as a registered letter continues to remain an effective means of delivering a notice of termination if personal delivery is not possible.

However, this case also highlights the importance of planning sufficient time for notice of termination to be delivered, even if HR managers use the reliable processes of Deutsche Post AG.

This is especially true in view of the fact that Deutsche Post AG recently announced that its permissible postal time for letters will be much longer in future: up to three working days.

Sending notice of termination in a timely manner prevents disputes about the date of receipt and, therefore, disputes concerning the legal consequences.

Summary of the key facts:

  • If notice of termination cannot be given in person, sending it by registered mail is a sound alternative.
  • If proof of dispatch and proof of delivery are available, prima facie evidence supports the delivery of the notice of termination on the date of the proof of delivery.
  • Sending a notice of termination in good time ahead of a relevant deadline prevents unnecessary labor court disputes.