Material liability of the employee in the light of the Labor Code

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The material liability of an employee for damages caused by non-performance or improper performance of employee duties is regulated in section V of the Labor Code under the title "Responsibility for entrusted property". This regulation comprehensively defines the rules of employees' liability for entrusted property, with the obligation to return and calculate. The above regulation allows the employer to impose on the employee compensation liability in full amount for damage to the entrusted property with the obligation to return or to calculate, of course, after meeting the relevant conditions specified in the regulations. The legislator has regulated additional rules, which only when combined may constitute a possible liability of an employee. It is worth pointing out that the responsibility for the entrusted property is based on the principle of guilt, the terms and conditions of which are set out in Art. 415 of the Civil Code and the following provisions of this code.

Material liability of the employee

Pursuant to Art. 124 of the Labor Code "An employee entrusted with the obligation to return or to calculate:

  • money, securities or valuables,

  • tools and instruments or similar items, as well as personal protective equipment as well as clothing and footwear, is fully liable for any damage to this property.

The employee is also fully liable for damage to property other than the above-mentioned entrusted to him with the obligation to return or calculate. The employee may release himself from the liability specified above if he proves that the damage was caused by reasons beyond his control, in particular as a result of the employer's failure to provide conditions enabling the security of the entrusted property ”.

However, according to Art. 125 of the Labor Code "On the terms set out in Art. 124 of the Labor Code, employees may accept joint material responsibility for the property entrusted to them, including the obligation to enumerate. The basis for the joint entrustment of property is a material co-liability agreement concluded by employees with the employer in writing under pain of nullity. Employees bearing joint material liability are liable in parts specified in the contract. However, where it is established that the damage was wholly or partly caused by certain employees, only the perpetrators of the damage are liable for all or a relevant part of the damage. '

Proper entrustment of property by the employer

In the case of entrusting property with the obligation to return and calculate, the basic rule is to properly and properly entrust the property to the employee, which will have an impact on the emergence of possible liability for damages of the employee. According to the jurisprudence, failure to provide an appropriate method of securing the funds entrusted to the employee by the employer, in the event of damage, may be considered as the employer's co-contribution to its occurrence. And in the longer term, to remove the responsibility for it from the employee. In this case, the employee may defend himself by indicating that, despite making every effort, the damage was caused by reasons beyond his control.

Example 1.

In one of the stores selling household appliances, the employer created a makeshift camera system to protect against theft. The store was regularly short of products, caused by monthly thefts made by one of the employees. Due to the employer's failure to meet the technical, quality and organizational requirements required in this case, employees cannot be held responsible for the property entrusted to them on the basis of the provisions of the Labor Code. Due to the employer's mistakes in securing the property, which led to a certain regularity of the damage, as a consequence, the proper performance of the entrusted obligation did not take place. In this case, the employer should ensure that property is properly secured and that material liability agreements are concluded with employees. Start a free 30-day trial period with no strings attached!

In view of the above, in accordance with Art. 124 § 3 of the Labor Code, an employee may defend himself from liability for property entrusted to him, if he proves that the damage was caused by reasons beyond his control, and in particular as a result of the employer's failure to provide conditions enabling the entrusted property to be secured. The reasons beyond the control of the employee, mentioned above, are those that the employee could not prevent, even with due diligence in the performance of the work. Therefore, the basic condition for the possible holding of an employee to be liable for damage to the property entrusted to him is that the employer demonstrates that he has been entrusted correctly.

It should be added that the employer, in a possible dispute with an employee, will have to prove that the damage actually occurred by providing the amount and the specific action of the employee who caused the damage to the employer's property and is financially liable. In addition, it is worth mentioning that the disclosure of a cash shortage in a situation where the employer has ensured the conditions for securing the entrusted money is associated with culpable damage caused by a materially responsible employee - a presumption that releases the employer from tedious evidence (see the judgment of the Supreme Court of 27 May 1999 No. , I PKN 73/99).

Before entrusting the employee with cash with the obligation to return and calculate them, the employer must first absolutely guarantee that it is properly secured, meeting the highest quality and technical standards.

The employee's written declaration of accepting full responsibility for the entrusted property is not enough to bring him accountable

It should be pointed out that, as a rule, it is not essential that there is any written statement by the employee that he or she assumes full responsibility for the damage caused to the property of the employer, because the employee's declaration of acceptance of property with the obligation to calculate it without its proper entrustment will not be related to with the occurrence of the liability for damages specified in Art. 124 of the Labor Code and subsequent provisions of this code. The signing by the employee of the declaration of accepting responsibility for the settlement of property does not matter as such and does not itself create an obligation to return or calculate it, but it is only relevant as evidence (see the judgment of the Supreme Court of December 3, 1981, IV PR 350). / 81). Therefore, only ensuring the highest standards of proper property entrustment and their detailed indication to the employee may be the basis for his possible liability for damages.

Circumstances that will allow the employee to defend himself against liability for the entrusted property

It is worth pointing to the following factual circumstances which, as a rule, may cause the employee to be released from liability for damages under Art. 124 of the Labor Code:

  • improper organization of work,

  • lack of proper supervision and control,

  • entrusting duties to an employee who does not have the required qualifications or setting too wide a range of duties, which he is unable to cope with despite his best efforts (see F. Małysz, Financial liability of employees for damages to entrusted property).

Employee's financial liability for damage to the property of the employer

Pursuant to Art. 115 of the Labor Code, the employee is liable for damage within the limits of the actual loss suffered by the employer and only for the normal consequences of the act or omission that caused the damage. Therefore, the damage to the employer's property must be real and should result from the employee's failure to perform his / her duties. The employer should indicate what negative behavior of the employee or failure to perform duties contributed to the damage. It is worth adding that contributing to the damage to the employer of other employees or third parties will have an impact on the employee's liability for the damage. Pursuant to Art. 117 of the Labor Code "The employee is not liable for the damage to the extent that the employer or another person contributed to its creation or increase. The employee does not bear the risk related to the activities of the employer, and in particular is not responsible for any damage resulting from operating within the limits of the permissible risk ”.

However, according to Art. 118 of the Labor Code “In the event of damage caused by several employees, each of them is liable for a part of the damage according to their contribution and the degree of fault. If it is not possible to determine the degree of fault and contribution of individual employees to the damage, they are liable in equal parts. "

Pursuant to Art. 119 of the Labor Code "Compensation is determined in the amount of the damage caused, but it may not exceed the amount of three months' remuneration due to the employee on the day of the damage". Thus, in the event of unintentionally causing damage to the employer's property, the employee will be financially liable only up to the amount of three months' remuneration. In the event of deliberate action aimed at causing damage to the employer's property, the employee will have to repair the damage in full.

Example 2.

In the workplace, the employer properly secured his property, created a camera system and a procedure for entrusting property. The employees also signed an appropriate declaration of financial responsibility. One of them persuaded two others to steal machines belonging to the workplace. It should be pointed out that in this case these three employees will be jointly and severally liable.

In conclusion, the employer, wishing to duly entrust the property to the employed employees, should verify on what basis and with what technical devices it will be entrusted to the employee. It is worth creating rules and regulations for the storage of employer's property that employees should be familiarized with.It is worth drawing up appropriate agreements on material liability for the entrusted property. Therefore, only duly entrusted property of the employer and signing a material liability agreement may result in drawing consequences from the employee under Art. 124 § 3 of the Labor Code.