26 February 2020

You are reading the final part of our series on “lawful dismissal”. This article examines with a case study approach, that in practice, what violations may justify immediate termination, i.e. what shall be meant under the Labour Code definition “grave violation of a substantive obligation”.

1. Breach of general rules of behaviour

a. breach of obligation to cooperate

Employees must respect the human dignity of their colleagues. Immediate termination was lawful in a case where an employee sent obscene images to a co-worker through the office mail system.

In another case, the employer inquired from an employee on sick leave about the office codes and keys he was using. The sick worker considered the above as harassment and instead of providing answers, he sent a heated letter to his superior. According to the Curia[1], the letter lacked the minimum of respect and could undermine the authority of the superior, so the court found the termination justified.[2]

It was also lawful to dismiss a head of department who grabbed the ear of his subordinate and said "if you speak to me again in such a tone, I will put your ear in your hand". The Curia stated that managerial employees are expected to set a good example, therefore both physical and verbal violence against subordinates is unacceptable.[3]

It is not unusual for employees to dislike their boss. However, it is worth considering any statement in this regard, as, according to the court, it is a breach of obligation to cooperate if the employee regularly denounces his superior in front of the staff,[4] or makes offensive statements on his/her personality and leadership.[5]

b. breach of general rules of behaviour

The dismissal of a bus driver was found lawful as he refused to help a person who got sick at the station, claiming he was off the clock.[6]

Immediate termination was lawful in the following case: a customer left his sunglasses in the office, then the customer service employee took it home. When the customer later went back for his glasses, the employer saw the employee’s conduct on CCTV footage. After being warned, the employee returned the glasses, but could not save his job.[7]

c. behaviour outside work, suspected crime

In relation to the commission of crime, it has to be examined whether (i) it can be related to the employment relationship, (ii) can cause damage to the employer's economic interests and reputation, and (iii) can cause the loss of trust in the employee. According to the practice, in case of serious crimes related to the employment relationship, even suspicion can justify immediate termination in certain cases.[8]

It is becoming increasingly common for employees to post statements on social media, which can damage or threaten the interests of the employer. In a case, the employee expressed his dissatisfaction with the management and incited against them in a Facebook post. It is not a surprise that he soon lost his job.[9]

However, the court did not find justified the immediate dismissal of an employee who sought employment with another employer without informing his superior thereof. The court stated that the job search was a private matter of the employee, furthermore, the employee would not have had to justify his resignation in case of finding a new job.[10]

2. Breach of work duties

a. unexcused absence, not working during working hours

Leaving the workplace without permission generally justifies immediate termination.[11]

Immediate termination was lawful in the following case: there was a loose working time schedule between sales agents, they often swapped shifts. After an agent did not appear for three days following his vacation, the employer dismissed him without notice. The employee referred to the loose practice as a defense, while the employer argued that the employee did not inquire about the schedule at all. According to the courts, such practices do not relieve the employee of his obligation to be present at work, so the termination was lawful.[12]

The court found lawful the dismissal of a head of secretariat who spent his/her working time reading newspapers.[13]

b. breach of professional rules

According to the judicial practice, the following breaches were severe enough to justify immediate termination:

  • During a secret test purchase by the employer, the cashier employee did not request the buyer to put all the goods on the checkout counter, did not check the goods and did not notice the hiding of several goods.[14]
  • in violation of the employer's verbal instructions, the employee has regularly purchased products in a way other than that authorized method.[15]

Failure to meet deadlines may also justify immediate termination, provided that the delay is regular and significant, and it is not for reasons beyond the control of the employee.

c. damage to employer’s property

According to practice, it does not affect the assessment of such acts whether the employer has actually suffered damage or not. Therefore, the employee cannot excuse himself by compensating for the damage caused. Even taking a soft drink from the employer’s inventory may justify immediate termination.[16]

In certain cases, even acts threatening the employer's assets may serve as a basis for termination, as revealed by a case where the dismissed security guard left the car containing the money unattended.[17]

3. Conclusion

It can be concluded that not only breach of job duties, but also misconducts in the workplace and even out-of-work behaviours can justify immediate termination. However, the courts will decide on a case-by-case basis whether a particular behaviour is a legitimate reason for imposing such a serious sanction. So, if there is a possibility of immediate dismissal, the employer must always consult with a legal professional first to assess whether the misconduct is severe enough to immediately dismiss the worker.


[1] the superme court of Hungary

[2] Mfv. I.10.166/2011

[3] Mfv. I.10.240/2012

[4] BH 2009.161

[5] Mfv. I. 10.533/2000

[6] Mfv. I.10.366/2014

[7] Mfv.I.10.066/2016

[8] EH.147

[9] Mfv. I. 10.469/2013.

[10] Mfv. I.10.423/2015

[11] BH 1996.287.

[12] Mfv. II. 10.043/2015

[13] MD. II.251.

[14] Mfv.II.10.345/2012

[15] BH 2003.262.

[16] Mfv. I.10.383/1999

[17] Mfv. I.10.172/2004