The plaintiff had been employed by the defendant, an industrial company, as a production worker since 2014. In this role, he regularly came into contact with machines that posed a certain risk potential. His tasks included operating cross-cut saws and cordless drills for cutting and assembling profiles, which sometimes required him to work on his knees.

On the basis of a company dress code, the defendant provides functional work clothing for all operational activities in assembly, production and logistics. This also provides for red protective work pants to be worn in these areas. After wearing the red trousers for years without any complaints, the plaintiff refused to wear them any longer for aesthetic reasons. Despite two warnings, the plaintiff did not change his behavior and continued to wear the dark pants. The defendant then terminated the employment relationship by ordinary notice.

Grounds for the decision of the Regional Labor Court of Düsseldorf

The plaintiff was also unsuccessful in the second instance. The Regional Labor Court of Düsseldorf again ruled in favor of the employer. The employer was entitled to require the color red for protective pants on the basis of its right to issue instructions. Since the plaintiff’s personal rights were only affected in the less important social sphere, an objective reason was sufficient for the instruction, as the Regional Labor Court of Düsseldorf found in this case.

The employer was able to convince the court with two arguments: First, occupational safety was an important consideration. For example, the employer was allowed to choose the signal color red because the plaintiff worked in production areas where forklift trucks were operated. Second, red clothing increases the visibility of employees. According to the Regional Labor Court of Düsseldorf, the preservation of the “corporate identity” in the factory halls should also be taken into account as a further objective reason on the part of the employer.

In contrast, the dismissed employee could not claim just cause, especially since he had worn the red work pants for many years. In any case, his current aesthetic perception of the color of the pants was not sufficient for the judges of the Regional Labor Court of Düsseldorf. After two warnings and the persistent refusal to comply with the defendant’s instructions, the company’s interest in terminating the employment ultimately prevailed, despite the long period of employment without complaints. The dismissal was therefore found to be lawful.

Practical tip:

The decision once again emphasizes the scope of the employer’s right to issue instructions. The employer’s right to issue instructions also extends to work clothing. However, there may be a limit to the dress code as soon as the employee’s privacy is affected. Ultimately, however, a dress code is always determined on a case-by-case basis.

Photo: shutterstock / Di Studio



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