Employment Contracts : Ecj: Country Where Embassy Is Situated Also Competent in Disputes

European Social Policy, September 19, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Employment Contracts : Ecj: Country Where Embassy Is Situated Also Competent in Disputes


A worker employed by the embassy of a third country on EU territory can bring proceedings before the court of the member state in which said embassy is situated to contest a dismissal, where the functions carried out by the employee do not fall within the exercise of public powers. The EU Court of Justice (ECJ) found that a third country can neither plead immunity from jurisdiction nor use the existence of an agreement on jurisdiction concluded before a dispute arises to impose its own jurisdiction.

This 19 July ruling (Case C-154/11) concerns a dispute between the Algerian Embassy in Germany and its former chauffeur, Ahmed Mahamdia. Mahamdia, who has Algerian and German nationality, worked for the Algerian state as a driver at its embassy in Berlin, Germany. In 2007, he contested his dismissal before the German courts and claimed compensation for his notice period and the overtime he had worked previously. Algeria argues, however, that as a foreign state it enjoys immunity from jurisdiction in Germany, recognised by international law, under which a state cannot be subjected to the jurisdiction of another state. In addition, Algeria relies on the term in the contract of employment concluded with Mahamdia, which provides that, in the event of a dispute, only the Algerian courts are to have jurisdiction. The People's Democratic Republic of Algeria is pleading an exception of jurisdiction of the German courts on the basis of international rules on the immunity from jurisdiction and the clause in the employment contract attributing it legislation and stipulating that in the case of dispute, only the Algerian courts have jurisdiction.

In this context, the Higher Labour Court, Berlin and Brandenburg (Landesarbeitsgericht Berlin-Brandenburg) asked the ECJ to interpret Regulation No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgements in civil and commercial matters, which lays down inter alia rules on jurisdiction over individual contracts of employment. Those rules are intended to ensure proper protection for the employee as the weaker of the contracting parties.

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