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The liability of a GmbH (limited liability company) managing director for unpaid minimum wage

The Fede­ral Labor Court (BAG) dealt with the ques­ti­on of whe­ther the mana­ging direc­tor of a GmbH is per­so­nal­ly lia­ble for dama­ges to the plain­ti­ff employee due to unpaid com­pen­sa­ti­on in the amount of the sta­tu­to­ry mini­mum wage.

Decis­i­on of the BAG: No Lia­bi­li­ty

The Fede­ral Labor Court (BAG) denied per­so­nal lia­bi­li­ty of the mana­ging direc­tor for the fail­ure to pay the mini­mum wage becau­se the regu­la­to­ry offen­se under the Mini­mum Wage Act (MiLoG) does not con­sti­tu­te a pro­tec­ti­ve law for employees in rela­ti­on to the company’s direc­tors under Sec­tion 823(2) of the Ger­man Civil Code (BGB).

The GmbH (limi­t­ed lia­bi­li­ty com­pa­ny) is lia­ble as an employ­er sole­ly with its cor­po­ra­te assets due to the sta­tu­to­ry limi­ta­ti­on of lia­bi­li­ty under Sec­tion 13(2) of the GmbH Act (GmbHG). The GmbH Act does not pro­vi­de for per­so­nal lia­bi­li­ty of mana­ging direc­tors to third par­ties. While the legis­la­tor can expand this lia­bi­li­ty sys­tem, for a mana­ging director’s lia­bi­li­ty under Sec­tion 823(2) of the BGB to be estab­lished, a pro­tec­ti­ve norm must cle­ar­ly indi­ca­te that, accor­ding to the legislator’s intent, the company’s direc­tors should also be per­so­nal­ly lia­ble.

Regar­ding the regu­la­to­ry offen­se under the Mini­mum Wage Act (MiLoG), the BAG could not iden­ti­fy such legis­la­ti­ve intent.

Legal Assess­ment

This decis­i­on is to be agreed with. Other­wi­se, GmbH mana­ging direc­tors could be held lia­ble for dama­ges in the amount of the sta­tu­to­ry mini­mum wage by the company’s employees, even in cases of (mild) negli­gence in ful­fil­ling the regu­la­to­ry offen­se. The fur­ther con­se­quence would be that, con­cer­ning the pay­ment of the mini­mum wage, employees would have addi­tio­nal deb­tors in addi­ti­on to the GmbH as their con­trac­tu­al employ­er.

The ques­ti­on of whe­ther the sol­ven­cy of the employ­er at the time of the mini­mum wage claim’s due date is a pre­re­qui­si­te for the appli­ca­ti­on of Sec­tion 21(1) No. 9 MiLoG remains unans­we­red. Accor­ding to the court’s opi­ni­on, there is much to sug­gest this (see Sec­tion 18 of the decis­i­on).

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