SC on breach of work duties by bank employee

The Supreme Court (SC) confirmed the validity of an immediate termination of employment of a bank employee working as a cashier. Entirely in line with its previous case law, it confirmed that duty breaches by bank employees must be viewed more strictly. The court mainly based its conclusion on the banking activity’s specificity, as it involves a significant element of risk and therefore places high demands on bank employees as regards meeting their work duties and observing internal policies and procedures.

In the case in question, a bank employee had made 45 cash deposits and withdrawals to and from her own account, accounts she was authorised to handle, and her relatives’ (‘close persons’) accounts, without the consent of her direct supervisor. However, the banks’ internal policies and procedures required the direct supervisor’s consent for all such activities. Furthermore, the employee several times opened a safe deposit box for which her colleague was responsible, and viewed three of her colleagues in a system allowing the inspection of their accounts and account balances, without appropriate authorisation. When deciding on the rightfulness of the immediate termination of employment by the employer, the SC also took into consideration the employee’s overall attitude: throughout the court procedure, she was belittling the entire case, arguing that “for a bank as an established banking institution with vast options of computer applications, it should be no problem to adopt necessary measures to immediately detect any employee’s handling of their or their relatives’ accounts”.

In another recent case, the SC also sided with the employer – a bank that had immediately terminated the employment of an employee who, without authorisation, had downloaded 2.2 GB of work-related data on his flash disc. When assessing the intensity of the breach of duties, the court also considered the employer’s business activity (the employer was a bank) and the clarity and strictness of the employer’s instructions and internal policies regulating the handling of data. The court also reflected on the employee having downloaded the entire content of his mailbox, including sensitive data concerning the credit and other activities of the employer and its clients.

The specific nature of banking activities has already been pointed out by the SC in a judgement dated 2001. The court then emphasised that breaches of duties arising from legal regulations concerning work performed by an employee for an employer that is a bank usually constitute a more severe and serious circumstance than would be the case with other employers. In the court’s opinion, the high demands and requirements on bank employees in this respect raise the intensity of breaches to a higher level. For this reason, the exact and strict observance of a bank’s internal policies and procedures is also a significant criterion for assessing the intensity of a breach. The court, however, also emphasised that this shall not be the only aspect to consider, as it is only a general assessment of the matter, not considering any other circumstances of the case.

Although higher demands may be placed on bank employees than on those of other entities as regards observance of duties arising from legal regulations concerning their work, bank employers cannot consider their specific business as the only criterion to assess the intensity of breaches and disregard other criteria entirely. All employers – including bank employers – should assess each case on an individual basis, and consider other criteria defined by case law, such as an employee’s personal circumstances, the office they hold, their attitude towards their work duties so far, the timing and circumstances of the breach, the extent of the employee’s fault,  the manner and intensity of a breach of concrete duties, etc.

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