Schlesinger scandal at RBB: Subtleties of the termination

The RBB board of directors only wants ex-director Patricia Schlesinger to have resigned “as a precaution”. What does that mean legally?

Portrait of Patricia Schlesinger.

“As a precautionary measure, without notice”: ex-RBB director Patricia Schlesinger Photo: Paul Zinken/dpa

On Monday, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) terminated the service contract of Patricia Schlesinger, the ex-director, without notice as a “precautionary measure”. In the RBB press release, the word “precautionary” is even underlined. What’s behind it?

On August 7, Patricia Schlesinger resigned after allegations of nepotism as director with immediate effect. However, that seems to have been just an explanation for the gallery. Legally, nothing seems to have changed as a result.

Because on August 15, the RBB called-Broadcasting Council Patricia Schlesinger is resigning from her position as artistic director with immediate effect. The Broadcasting Council relied on Paragraph 22 of the RBB state contract, which states: “The director can be dismissed by the Broadcasting Council before the end of the fixed term of office.” Special conditions are therefore not required for the dismissal. The then chairwoman of the Broadcasting Council only said that the relationship of trust with Schlesinger had been permanently destroyed.

Schlesinger was no longer director, but the service contract with the RBB probably still existed. In any case, the RBB assumed on August 15 that the service contract can only be terminated by the board of directors. This is also supported by the rules of jurisdiction in the RBB State Treaty.

No pension

On August 22, the board of directors terminated Schlesinger’s service contract “as a precautionary measure without notice”. The committee referred to Section 626 of the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch, BGB), which allows termination of a service contract without notice “for good cause”. This termination was “as a precaution”, “since the service contract with Schlesinger was actually considered to have ended with the dismissal last week,” said the RBB. This is surprising, because a week earlier it was still assumed that the service contract could only be terminated by the board of directors.

The RBB may be concerned that its termination without notice will come too late and is therefore ineffective. According to the German Civil Code, termination without notice must take place two weeks after knowledge of the facts. The RBB is now acting as if Schlesinger’s service contract ended on August 15th and was only terminated again on August 22nd for “security”.

In any case, on August 22, the Board of Directors expressly decided by resolution that Schlesinger should not receive any pension. According to an RBB report, according to an RBB report, Schlesinger would have been entitled to around two thirds of his previous salary of more than 300,000 euros per year as an unlimited pension after the end of his term of office.

A severance payment is very unusual in the case of extraordinary termination, but is not legally excluded. There is no RBB decision on this question so far.

Schlesinger can sue against the termination. Since she was probably not considered to be an employee who was bound by instructions, it is probably not the labor court that is responsible, but the Berlin Regional Court. There it would also be checked whether the allegations against Schlesinger are sufficient for termination without notice. An oral hearing on this would be public.

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