- 25 Sep 2012
- Sabine Buhl Valentiner
The Danish Supreme Court has ruled in a case concerning the distribution of jurisdiction between the ordinary courts and the Labour Court
The Danish Supreme Court has ruled in a case concerning the distribution of jurisdiction between the ordinary courts and the Labour Court.
Section 9(1)(vii) of the Danish Labour Court Act details the cases to be submitted to the Labour Court. Examples of such cases are disputes about the existence and interpretation of an industrial arbitration agreement. But how far can this provision be stretched? This issue was addressed by the Danish Supreme Court in this case.
A health and safety representative at a theatre was summarily dismissed. He was not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, and his employment contract did not have an arbitration clause.
Under the Danish Working Environment Act, disputes about dismissal protection must be resolved in the industrial tribunal system. The employee's trade union believed that question of whether the summary dismissal was fair should be submitted to industrial arbitration. The theatre disagreed, arguing that in that case there would have to be a collective bargaining agreement. The theatre believed that it was for the Labour Court to determine where the summary dismissal case should be heard. The trade union argued that the ordinary courts had jurisdiction to hear the case, since it depended on an interpretation of the Danish Working Environment Act.
The district court and later the High Court agreed with the theatre, dismissing the case from the ordinary courts and referring it to the Labour Court. The issue eventually ended up before the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court referred the case back to the district court. According to the Supreme Court, the disagreement was not about the existence or understanding of an arbitration agreement, and the dispute should therefore not be heard by the Labour Court. Section 9(1)(vii) of the Danish Labour Court Act does not cover disputes which do not concern a collective bargaining agreement or the understanding of an arbitration agreement – and the issue of how to understand the Danish Working Environment Act should therefore be determined by the ordinary courts.
Norrbom Vinding notes
- that the ruling reinforces the principle that the Labour Court will only hear cases which relate to a collective bargaining agreement and cases where an arbitration agreement has been made.