Temporary Head Coach Contract interpreted as being non-terminable during the Fixed Term

Date 21 okt. 2014
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In a case filed by the head coach of a professional Danish football club, the court of Roskilde stated on 8 October 2014 that any non-termination clause prevented the employment contract from being terminated in accordance with the rules of the Danish Salaried Employees Act.

 

The Case in brief

The head coach was given notice at a meeting in September 2012. The employment contract stated that the employment period was from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2014. The employment contract also referred to the provisions of the Danish Salaried Employees Act and the Danish Holiday Act.


The employer was of the opinion that the conditions of the employment were covered by the Danish Salaried Employees Act’s rules and that consequently, the employer was entitled to dismiss the head coach by three months’ notice. The head coach, however, argued that the contract was irrevocable and that he was entitled to his salary until the expiration of the notice period. He took legal proceedings claiming payment of salary until 16 June 2014, at which time the head coach obtained new employment as an assistant coach in another football club.


The employer claimed rejection of the head coach’s claim and argued that the head coach had not fulfilled his duty to mitigate losses in the period until new employment.  


The Court’s Decision

The court found that in a natural understanding of the employment contract’s wording, the time limited three-year agreement was irrevocable for both parties in the relevant period. The stipulations on the duration of the employment as well as the head coach’s salary in the event that he would be immediately released from his position were factors emphasized by the court and which meant that the employer was not entitled to terminate the head coach pursuant to the regular rules on termination in the Danish Salaried Employees Act. Thus, the head coach was entitled to compensation corresponding to salary for the period 3 September 2012 to 15 June 2014, at which point the head coach started in his new position. The head coach’s claim for payment in the period up until 15 June 2014 included the total amount of salary which included the right to a company car.

 

As for the duty to mitigate losses, the court ruled that the head coach had adequately substantiated that he fulfilled his duty to mitigate losses in relation to the employer. In its assessment, the Court attached importance to the fact that in the period after his termination, the head coach acted actively for the purpose of obtaining new employment and that within the football industry, employment is obtained through contacts, care and network, and not through job advertisements and unsolicited applications.


The employer has appealed the decision to the High Court of Eastern Denmark.


Our Assessment

As with professional football players, it is often seen that head coaches enter into employment contracts for a fixed period of time. Based on this ruling, such a time limited period must be understood as a period of irrevocability and a head coach may very well be entitled to his salary for the full contract period in the event of termination.


In the event of termination of a head coach, the parties should, to the widest extent possible, attempt to enter into a severance agreement setting out the financial rights and obligations during the notice period.

 

If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding the amendments to and the impact of the new order, please contact partner Pernille Nørkær (pno@mwblaw.dk) or trainee Thomas Bento-Nystad (tbn@mwblaw.dk).

 

 

The above does not constitute legal counselling and Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen does not warrant the accuracy of the information. With the above text, Moalem Weitemeyer Bendtsen has not assumed responsibility of any kind as a consequence of a reader’s use of the above as a basis of decisions or considerations.