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Press Details (Pressedetails)

The extended press information of 20 July 2017 based on the brief press release of 20 July 2017 via OTS is as follows [DE]:

The Search for Mister X –
Court Decision Turns Labor Law Upside Down

Errors and Confusion about the Superior: Immediate Dismissal
of a University Professor – 1,000 EUR Reward Offered!

A professor is dismissed without notice on his 40th birthday. As an important reason, the well-known university in Graz states later in court that he had once tried to circumvent his superior. But who was actually responsible, technically or disciplinarily or not at all? The local courts ignore the chaos at the university and the many contradictory statements about the superior. This results in a completely inadequate justification of the dismissal. Furthermore, the Provincial High Court as appeal court surprisingly assumes that an unlawful dismissal also terminates the employment even if the collective agreement forbids a contractual notice of dismissal. The professor is now offering a reward of 1,000 EUR for the elucidation of the real cause of the dismissal.

The professor, Prof. A, first cancels his presentation for the selection procedure of a well-known Austrian university, but is persuaded by the appointment committee to come. In March 2014 Prof. A is even appointed to a professorship, which is limited to a few years, at the Institute of Prof. M, however, he is sidelined soon after. Since many colleagues as well as his work group members (“inherited” from his predecessor) are little cooperative and helpful to Prof. A, he tries several times in the first months to get answers on essential questions about superior’s competencies and crucial internal structures from the university management. In the absence of answers, Prof. A, who is largely ostracized, involves a mediator (a lawyer) after more than a year and tries in this way to eventually reach a clearer understanding of his working conditions and the future of his professorship.

Even this approach remains unsuccessful. The university presents only ill-conceived proposals such as Prof. A’s change of the faculty to another institute, which would be very disadvantageous for him. Finally, the university suddenly tries a hard solution through a very dubious and unclear change of the “assignment” of Prof. A to one of the vice-rectors in his faculty. However, this soon results even in the immediate dismissal of Prof. A. As an important reason for the dismissal, the university states later in court that Prof. A once tried to circumvent his superior when he asked for time-off for research purposes elsewhere for the first time at the beginning of August 2015.

Difficult Search for the Superior in the Court Proceedings

But who, except for the Rector, is actually the superior of a professor, and who specifically of Prof. A shortly before his dismissal on 10 August, his 40th birthday? In this respect, the university, written documents, and witnesses questioned in court make considerable contradictory statements, a small selection of which follows in chronological order (the full material is here; highlighted excerpts from court files, typo corrections, textual/syntactic adaptations, anonymizations of names and additional details in [] are provided by the author of this article):

Suppl. 6: Internal e-mail of 7 August 2015 from a Dean, Prof. U:

Mr. A will be transferred to the domain of VR [for Research] B from 1 August [2015], [the head of the institute] S (and superior U) are technically responsible.

Protocol of the preparatory hearing of 5 October 2015, university’s lawyer:

The plaintiff would have to ask for time-off [for research purposes] with Prof. S, this has been known to him since the end of July [2015].”

Written pleading of 19 October 2015 from the university’s lawyer:

“Just as was the plaintiff by Rector’s directive, which was legally compliant, assigned directly to Prof. S to the Institute of … by 1 August 2015.”

Protocol of the hearing of 4 November 2015, Vice-Rector for Finance for the university:

It was clear that he [the plaintiff] has Vice-Rector B as superior from 1 August. The peculiarity was that he has no head of institute above him.”

Protocol of the hearing of 29 June 2016, Vice-Rector for Research, Prof. B, as witness:

From my point of view, it was clearly expressed that I am the new superior of the plaintiff. The request for time-off should have been addressed to me. …
There was no transfer to the institute of Prof. S. Formally, the plaintiff was still with [Prof.] M. After 1 August [2015], he was with me. The plaintiff was never with Prof. S.

Despite numerous apparent contradictions, the Provincial High Court in Graz confirms the dismissal and draws the following, highly questionable conclusion in April 2017: “In the context of the escalating incidents at the end of July 2015, Prof. A now criticizes the above-mentioned ascertainments [of the Provincial Court] in connection with the subordination of Prof. A to the Vice-Rector Prof. B. In reality, Prof. A would like … to have ascertained a more precise chronological sequence of the individual points, from which he wants to demonstrate – inconclusively – that the question of competencies had been chaotic and that the defendant had an organizational fault. However, based on that, he cannot substantiate an inaccuracy of the ascertainments [of the Provincial Court]. By the way, the proposal made to Prof. A on 22 July 2015 about the direct assignment to Prof. B was ascertained [by the Provincial Court] anyway … Also, the conclusion of Prof. A that it was not clear who he should have asked for the time-off cannot be evidenced seriously…”

Additionally, the legal grounds of an immediate dismissal such as perseverance and severity of the plaintiff’s behavior as well as the fundamental relevance of a professor's scientific freedom are almost not discussed by the courts. The Provincial High Court even refuses Prof. A an ordinary revision to the national Supreme Court; only the extraordinary revision cannot be legally prohibited by this court, however, the chances of success are generally very low.

So Prof. A is now offering a reward of 1,000 EUR for the real cause of the dismissal because his career was destroyed and he became unemployed. Moreover, multiple previous professors reported on quite similar mobbing problems and bullying at the university. The court files and a summary are available from .