Supreme Court: dismissed religion teacher correctly reinstated to work
On 3 July 2019, the Supreme Court found that Piotr Janowicz’s had been correctly and lawfully reinstated in a teaching position.
♦ The man taught history and civic education but was also a religion teacher and a trade union’s member. At the request of the school’s headmaster, a bishop revoked Mr Janowicz’s official permission to teach religion. The school claimed that, in accordance with the Teacher’s Charter, the revocation obliged them to terminate the teacher’s employment, irrespective of any trade union protection he had.
♦ In proceedings before the Supreme Court, Piotr Janowicz was represented by Piotr Kryczek, a partner at Chajec, Don-Siemion & Żyto sp.k., who took on the case pro bono at the request of the Helsinki Foundation.
Mr Janowicz worked as a religion teacher at a school in Poznań. For several years he had also been teaching history and civic education classes. In 2014, during his last year of service, Mr Janowicz was almost entirely occupied with teaching history. At the same time, he was granted special trade union protection, which prevented his dismissal without the union’s approval.
At the request of the school’s headmaster, a bishop revoked Mr Janowicz’s official permission to teach religion at this institution. The school administration claimed that, in accordance with the provisions of the Teacher’s Charter, the revocation of the teacher’s delegation to teach religion obliged the employer to terminate his employment, irrespective of any trade union protection he had.
The trial and appellate court both held that Mr Janowicz’s dismissal was unlawful. The courts found that the school administration had taken advantage of a special and simplified dismissal procedure for religion teachers in order to deprive the teacher of trade union protection and terminate his employment. Ultimately, the Regional Court in Poznań ruled that Piotr Janowicz should be reinstated to the position of a history teacher because his dismissal violated a number of laws governing termination of employment contracts, including the relevant provisions of the Teacher’s Charter, and awarded him remuneration for the entire period of being out of work.
The school challenged the judgment of the Regional Court in Poznań by lodging an appeal in cassation with the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.
“The Supreme Court found that Piotr Janowicz had in fact obtained the double status of a nominated teacher. On the one hand, he was a religious teacher, and on the other hand, as a result of having been given the full teaching load of history and civics teacher and fulfilling the conditions set out in the Teacher’s Charter, he also became a nominated teacher of other subjects. The Court also emphasised that Mr Janowicz was appropriately reinstated to the post of a history teacher because he was also entitled to special trade union protection against termination of his employment contract”, says Mr Kryczek.
“Courts of all instances disapproved of the use of the simplified procedure of dismissing religion teachers that ignores the special protection afforded to union members because Mr Janowicz acquired his teaching position as a teacher of other subjects, not only religion. The school was considered to have been acting in bad faith. However, there still remains an interpretation of law that deprives religion teachers of special protection of the stability of the employment relationship. “As far as their employment is concerned, religion teachers should be treated in the same way as all other teachers”, explains Jarosław Jagura, a lawyer working for the HFHR.